Posted by: cousinbrandon | October 29, 2010

Versus: The Poetry of Cousin Brandon

This past week I heard from an old friend, a guy I met in Boston who has since moved to New York, and as it turns out is now in Los Angeles. I remember going to visit him in New York the summer after my ex-wife and I separated. In fact, a couple of our good pals from Boston came in that weekend, as well. It was the first time I explored New York City. I mean, yes, I’d been there many times before, but never when I had a “critical eye,” so to speak. That is, I was not yet jaded during those earlier visits. I was either a high school kid on a field trip, or in my early 20’s there for a ballgame. I had never been there as a single, adult man, and I remember finding it different — much different — than what I remembered. It was alive. To be an adult in his 30’s meant walking the streets not as a wide-eyed yokel just off the bus, but as a discerning, experienced, (mal)adjusted man with real-life experience. Again, I’ve lived in Chicago. I’ve lived in Boston and Philadelphia. I’ve lived in cities all over the country. But this was somehow different. And, surprisingly, I loved it. Manhattan, not so much, what with its non-stop tourists, flashing billboards, and chain restaurants. But Brooklyn? Hell, yes! It was downright fantastic. Great bars. Good food. Weird and interesting people. At the time, it was what I needed: a reminder that there was actual life happening outside of my shitty town, with its shitty bars and restaurants, shitty bands and shitty people.

I began “In Brooklyn” a few years ago and only within the last week, after hearing from my pal, did I revisit it. And despite my new additions and edits, it feels unfinished. I think there could be something there, but at this point it’s still in draft state, to be fair. This is a first-time viewing, in that it’s not been read previously in any form. Feel free to beat the hell out of it.

In Brooklyn

there are sidewalks
peppered with dog shit,
men in unwashed
underwear hanging
yellow pants
from trees, trains
that stink of sweat,
of bad perfume,
spoiled food,
and piss. In Brooklyn
there are girls
and their girlfriends
drinking, shooting pool,
making out in front
of the pinball machine,
then walking, arm-in-arm,
to the studio they share
and fuck in, forgetting
they once fucked men
(or fucked a man),
forgetting, at least
for a little while,
rent’s due, the Ficus
needs watering,
the hot water is out
and will be for days.




  1. interesting observations…i too would like some day to visit New York (not tourist destinations)…your poem is what i imagined New York to be….

  2. Jesus Christ. I don’t know where to begin. I grew up, for a while in Manhattan. I live 5 minutes from the Bronx. My wife went to college and grad school in Queens. I have relatives in Brooklyn and Manhattan that I visit often.

    Havoc… this poem doesn’t describe NY. It might desrcibe a block, a street, or a neighborhood, but you have to realize that it’s not indicitive of what NY, as a whole (or hole, from CB’s description) is.

    It’s funny CB, that when you introduced the poem, you mention how you loved Brooklyn. However, this seems like an overly sardonic description. Perhaps, in your need to no longer be naive, you took it to another extreme and became a cynic.

    • Fair enough, MM, but I think you miss my point. By no means do I say that this is a cross-section of New York and/or Brooklyn. Rather, this was MY perception during a visit there. This is LITERALLY what I saw and experienced. Now, obviously the part at the end about the women is speculation. What’s more, it doesn’t need to describe YOUR New York. I’m not offering this poem up as some sort of tourist or travel guide. Again, this was based on MY impression of a weekend visit.

  3. Yeah, I understand CB. And subways ARE ovens for baking old food/urine that leave the aroma wafting throughout the train station. And the women… perfect description of Larry and Thin Mint.

    The poem doesn’t seem contrived or phony at all. I believe this is what you experienced. But I also think that if you were trying to convey the fact that you loved BK, and that it reaffirmed your conlcusions about life outside of your small town…. well that didn’t come through so much.

    • Again, MM, by no means do I think the poem is “finished.” What’s more, I wasn’t trying to convey ANYTHING as to my attitude about Brooklyn. The speaker’s tone is to be one of reporting, not judging. Yes, it may contradict the write-up, but the poem stands on its own. I guess what I’m asking you to do is remove the “intro” from the poem and allow the poem to function on its own. You are reading the two as dependent upon each other, and I think that’s coloring your take on the speaker in the poem.

  4. You know what? You’re right. I was taking it in as a package deal. And alone, it makes a lot more sense.

    Moreover, when you said New Yorkers would enjoy this in particular, I also took that into account. So I probably had different expectations too. And I certainly don’t mean to belittle your work.

    Either way, don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the poem, as I do with most of your work. I mean, it’s no, “Twice She Said,” but then again, there’s only one Mona Lisa….

    • No “Twice She Said”? How dare you!

      No, I wasn’t trying to be defensive or anything. I was just attempting to justify my perspective. And, again, I appreciate you not only offering your take, but challenging me. Again, it says a hell of lot more to me than simply letting it all wash over you. At least it had some sort of impact.

      Thanks for reading/commenting, MM. If only LOST was still on the air…

  5. The whole time you were there and you didn’t see any Puerto Ricans or hasids? Are you sure you weren’t in Jersey City?

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