The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Michelle Chan Brown’s “Double Agent”













Floss of your hair, cleave
                my tongue. New morning, new devil, do you make me

speechless or fluent as liquid? My words a dribble, hardening
                mid-air, but pleasure

freezes at the moment of its reckoning. Cleave my long thigh, grape heart;
                suture me from sleep with the anaphora

of your body, close, closer, closed.


How your footprints had a different face. How the trees were scythes. How long-armed, how lace, how lovely. How the blueblack beetles & millipedes made love in our elbows. How far? How to decapitate a squirrel. How your boy-musk rose like a cape around me. How the word hunger sounds on the dry palate: your mouth, our earth. How sweet it is.


Cat-eye moon on the night, will you shut
                the border, make a new sound for flesh? My fingers uneven

pyres to lend a glimmer—the stark pupil
                of desire at the center. I mime commands & picture you

downy at the copper-plated breast, stricken
                by your lullaby: unrest, unrest, unrest.


When we lay in the canopy bed, you told me how lucky I was, because you are fastidious. Faast. I mouthed. Id. Other brothers, bad brothers, greedy, sucking, hammer-toed, slate-hearted, would have eaten me, collapsed the plump kiwi of my body into a digestive, gleaned the iron of my capillaries, the pearlescent mar- row, the tenderized meat of my brain. Instead, you counted my toes, glad there were ten. You told me what happens to the hungry ones.


Shoulder blades are slow as wind, but the stars seethe
                in uneasy plasma. Oh, copper-

hot armor, fall away, slow as an apple spiral, chasten
                the membranes of my lips. Tell me: are we not

out of the woods? Who can hear but the daft,
                dead birds, suicides on your windowsill?


But I insisted you made me dream what I did. But you swam below that lid of consciousness, and then the dream-sea was our mother and the cilia of lungs were the blades of grass noosing our half-formed feet, and our heads fused like a vase of earth, and our backs were one back, and our mother took the coil in her cold ringless fingers and she wound it around & around & around us, and although I could not breathe, I knew I would never be lost.


All the horizon in handcuffs of color, and the morning
                rubs my red throat, dead wrists, but I cannot

mount your profile, or trick it to a mask; cannot
                harden enough to be the thing that lasts.

This selection comes from Michelle Chan Brown’s book Double Agent, available from Kore Press. Purchase your copy here!

Michelle Chan Brown was born in London and grew up in Prague, Krakow, Moscow, Belgrade and Kiev. Her first book, Double Agent, was winner of the 2012 Kore First Book Award, judged by Bhanu Kapil. Her second book, Motherland, with Wolves, is forthcoming in 2015. Her work has appeared in Blackbird, Cimarron Review, The Missouri Review, Witness and many other journals and anthologies. A Kundiman fellow and two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, Michelle is poetry editor of Drunken Boat. She lives in Almaty, Kazakhstan, where she is a Fulbright scholar, at work on non-fiction and a third poetry collection.

T.A. Noonan is the author of several books and chapbooks, most recently The Midway Iterations (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2015), Fall (Lucky Bastard Press, 2015), and The Ep[is]odes: a reformulation of Horace (Noctuary Press, 2016). Her work has appeared in Reunion: The Dallas Review, Menacing Hedge, LIT, West Wind Review, Ninth Letter, Phoebe, and others. A weightlifter, artist, teacher, priestess, and all-around woman of action, she is the Vice President and Associate Editor of Sundress Publications.


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