Brandon Brown's CORRESPONDENCES are translations of Baudelaire's poems with the same title. Each
poem, once written was mailed individually.
Something I meant to do…something unnatural.
Squeeze a pill between my tonsils. See what the
tonsure does to my temples? Makes my brain look bigger?
I see you looking at me—familiar and observant.
There’s a noise that saturates Oakland. I’m confident
it saturates the helium deposits pilloried
in the nitrate-rich boneyard of the bay.
I know! That sound stirred me too
from the orgiastic perfume of a delightful dream
in which I munched the profundity of not one,
not two…but like five children,
their lives and their flaky attention
cool as the skin of leftover plums.
Sorry to make Charles Baudelaire a cannibal.
It was hard enough to be him. Sorry
to suggest this gastrophagous bent consumed
him and that remarkable ascot.
Oh fine, be incensed. For a minute, on the train, I saw
you loving its sound. Its spirit. Its essence.
I don’t think language is light
but something sees through the floating corset
passing through the colon of this salsa
I chug it with my familiars.
Confident; long, tall, wide, broad…and confident.
Nothing really resembles anything else
and language is not light.
Hold up this page, you’re just trying to
It doesn’t. There are sovereigns so fabulous
they delight in roasting children.
A horrible Baudelaireanism to include
in this translation for you
who have just painted a nursery. Did you all
decide on taupe or emerald? Nevermind
they do not delight in roasting children
but rather tomatilloes. The whining skins
of peppers. Corn. And corn from
musky, incendiary tubes.
Oh God the “natural.” Spare
me. Elaborate routinization of genetic entropy
so guys passing by give me those salty looks
(Lawry’s). The seats of Ferraris feel familiar,
like the caress of a sibling in prehistory.
Fossilized cum fondues,
dense as old cake, profound as Modernism;
vast cum fondue which I duly, you know, buy online.
Perfume is colorless my dudes
just like my siblings. We’re hot, we’re related,
we emerge in the prairies like a twist
on the chalupa. Wet the wrapper if you want
it to stick. If you want to be rich,
if you want to be triumphant. Make it clap
the pods of you, but don’t start lecturing
me about “the natural.”
I just told a barista that I have
a twin brother. And yet I wasn’t
even so much “born” as set-down-
I think it’s time to start wearing purple.
I think it’s time to be pilloried. Sort of
confused, sort of abreast that tireless agent
of the ever-recurrent. Are you familiar
with the long-echoing desire of Charles Baudelaire
to huff cum in the night? To huff cum
clearly and profoundly, to color his stepdad
with residue on a hanky. Slapped into
the afterlife like I was slapped off of
the prairie. Desperate to surpass the back Ozark
crank freak inside me. Desperate not to
blow what I only ever intended to cook.
Walk home of utter corruption, flashy and purple
as the veins inside one heavenly blunt.
Like amber. Like musk. Like generic ephedephrine.
All singing in unison. The fashionability
of drilling down 80. Drilling down in full pillory,
abreast a pooch. Abreast in my own pillory.
Things do not connect, they correspond. Except
when they do not correspond, and then sometimes
you find yourself fucking the grass. Nobody
knows how swiftly the cannibal inside these lines
rears, wags the salt shaker at thighs striding by. Glorious
tights simply the shrink-wrap on what cats
simply have to plow. Ever since Charles Baudelaire
initiated modernity, cracking nuts between his teeth
and shrieking, these are just like
eating the heads of little children! Eeek! But
did you eat it? Or did you have a correspondence
with it? Did it wriggle inside the paper bag
nipping at your fingers? Bruce will not cook
us crabs. Syphilis is a bummer. Slave labor
is a bummer. And there’s us
sipping Maalox on an airplane.
Somehow I’ve got to tempt life into pill shape.
Let the parboiled trotter poking its snout out
of a gravy catastrophe be
familiar as the wifey I’ve never observed.
There’s confidence so confident it would irradiate
the total trough. In the rich, mealy, Burgundian
whiff of an ass that has never known paper
look at me now. Look at me freak clearly,
freak clarity. Freak in correspondence. In high-
chairs there sit babes, slimy with virus,
gnawing on pork tenderloin with their brittle,
mortal, valuable teeth. They’re fed by the
pill-flecked hands of prairie baby daddies.
Hillbilly heroin. It makes life like a work
of extravagant pharmacircuitry. Hillbilly correspondence.
This used to be my walk now it’s my ambience.
It makes dinner out of what should be insulating
the shack our babies chow in. Those
pigs. Those drug-addled spider-loving swine!
I draw a big pentagram on the floor
and right there, surrounded by chalky lines,
I pledge my life to advocate for fine things:
everything that has a stench, which packs
in salt, which tickles one’s benefactor.
When I was a child I was forced to play the oboe
and my masters said the strength
is in your hair boy. The hair inside your
lips. It’s all the same. And yet…
I’ve got a gas can semi-permanently moistening
a rag and the rag is pressed against my face! Imagine
if Charles Baudelaire had been exiled to West
Texas. Imagine he starts a cannibal cult
and its headquarters are in Marfa. People always
say my outfit is so disco. So East
Village 1979. I say come closer. Sniff
deep. That’s what it smelled like too.
I put my head in mud and it is cool.
I mean, my scalp tingles with the yesterday’s-gravy-
chill of the improbably frigid. Like dandruff
shampoo, only nasty and made out of worms.
And the pee of young loutish boys making ornery
at the wedding as it tumbles into legend.
Also the mud, my putting my head into it,
makes me awesome. Industry is the enemy
of magic—all the more reason to do it
on a divan made of newt’s eyes (or whatever.)
To do the nasty on a davenport woven of
sage tendrils and grunting in Coptic.
Two hot boys approach, their veins green
as the forests of Egypt in which the holy
ones chant together in Coptic. I corrupt
them with money and industry. I choose
them over infinity, their musk over my
musk. I magically choose these boys,
and we sit to eat together at a banquet
laden with cutlery. Laden with mud pies.
I was standing between two pillars when, oh
shit! they started talking to me. What
passes as a party in the forest of the
totally symbolic? What passes as a fond
party in one’s loins in the totally unpartylike
profundity of brutal partying? I don’t
know whether it’s the Visine™ or Everyday Life™
but I swear I hear pillars whispering to me.
They’re saying “Hey, Charles Baudelaire,
everything is in correspondence, but also
you’re coming all over an oboe. Kill children.
Write a poem.” This is how I begin to balloon.
This is how my tinkle gets tickled. I go
to this party and my pupils dissolve into
a saline typhoon that trolls absorb into
their saliva. Recapitulated piñata interior.
Major party. It’s my party. And I will
come on an oboe if I…um…need to?
Brandon Brown’s first two books were published in 2011, The Persians By Aeschylus (Displaced Press) and The Poems of Gaius Valerius Catullus (Krupskaya.) Poems and prose have recently appeared in Postmodern Culture, Model Homes, Poetry Project Newsletter, Swan’s Rag, Try!, and Art Practical. He has programmed literary series at New Langton Arts, 21 Grand Gallery, several consecutive living rooms, and published small press chapbooks under the imprint OMG! He lives in San Francisco.