Editors' Pick, Week 3

Poetry Cycle by Victoria Gransee

Khakis Creased at the Altar


Pinches of a rosary, black breath muttering, and you’re not here.
Red knees to the floor, clammy palms clasped, and you’re not here.

Republics, homelands, houses and ceilings all fall.
I live in a tear habit looking for you, here but not quite here.

When looking for saviors, I turn to you last. You know this.
I speak first the name of my brother, but he’s not here.

I threaten you with temples, “pull me out and I will sing.”
It’s not a real promise; I know you are not here.

The woman in red tells me I am wrong to denounce what I have
not seen. I have seen trace in the trees, but certainly not here.

Nowhere I know resembles a church. No one I know resembles
a churchgoer or a god. I search for you alone, and you’re not here.

From the open window, the whistling wind has nothing to say
of my heretic vices. I blow out my candles. You’re still not here.



When imagining your face, all I see
is the furrowed brow of a brother
tossing years and years into half a suitcase
I think about your bruised ankles hitting
the bottom stair, you’re the rusty nail I remember

Oh, God, sitting on the windowsill, watching you wait for the train
You’re going home and that isn’t where
the burn marks are from, you’re thinking about covering
your scars
We share the same ones, you’re thinking about covering

I’m thinking about the streetlights you avoided, the black night shrouding
the set of your jaw
Glancing back, missing my vantage
point, our leather jackets

hung beside each other
Think about flailing, think about how it felt; a cliff and three feet of water
I want to sit on the roof, I wanna smoke again
I want to talk about death hanging between us; I never wanna talk again
This is the mercy of the Now, the horror of the Cycle.

Turn around, turn around, turn around
I wanna hear your footsteps, I want to feel the lack of sound from the creaky floorboards,
I miss dancing around them, hot pokers pressed to feet, I’m thinking about maman and her eyes
her prayers – Fear is divinity; God is a Poetic Device –
I’m thinking about those glittering balls

The family tree in the family jewels, we talk nonsense, we speak French
We drink champagne, we sip truth serum, we trip
on the back garden stair
and rupture our lips
and don’t speak for days




My little brother was born with a sea in his head,
haunting him at night, waves lapping the shore, a
steady drumbeat, white foam.

Come and find out.

I’d find him perched on the sailboat bed, sheets
clinging to him like hands, choking on the stuff,
and bring him down, clicking my tongue
“oh malen’kiy, where have you gone?”

He says, “I am half my maker’s shape,” and I see
that he’s been drowning in the dream. He spits up
water and hope. I nurse him to health with pills
and potions, doctor’s orders.

We cannot have a dreamer in these walls.

My little brother was born in a snowdrift December,
flurries of snow howling through his hair, a
blue child with eyes set on the nearing horizon.

What is it you’re looking for?

“The sun,” he says, and I see that he watches the sky
like a Catholic, expectant. When night falls, he climbs
the mast of the sailboat bed and sets off for distant
lands. I hardly recognize him come morning time.

He says, “It exists, you know,” and what I know is
he’s been spending time in someone else’s
kitchen, tasting stone houses with cluttered
mantelpieces. He has found a Home, found it foreign.

We cannot have him in these walls.

My little brother was born in the place the horror movie
happens. A werewolf howling from distant hills.
The blackening of her eyes, the curve of their lips.

Come and find out.

I find him perched on the sailboat bed, hand
wrapped in white gauze. He has been drowning.
He spits up seafoam and ale. The wallpaper peels.
“Oh malen’kiy, what did you say?”

He says, “I am half my maker’s shape,” and I see
two summers ago, his palms carving through waves.
He has seen the Catholic’s sun. There is no nursing
him to health. There is no need.

We cannot have a dreamer in these walls.

About Victoria Gransee

Victoria Gransee (@vgransee) is a Wisconsin-based writer fascinated by memory, self, and the divine.

National Poetry Month

BMP Celebrates National Poetry Month

Happy National Poetry Month! For poets and poetry lovers—and perhaps for those who love poets—this is a special time. At Brain Mill Press, we like to celebrate all month long by sharing featured poets, and with our fee-free contest. This year, we’re thinking about poetry cycles, poems that speak to each other, forms that build on each other (like crowns), and the ways a poem can be a scaffold or foundation for other poems. Our words are often in response to other poems, and our own body of work is often an ongoing conversation. We speak to each other, with ourselves, and sometimes into the void—hoping someone will answer back.

Top photo by Isabella Fischer on Unsplash