Forged Correspondences

forgedcorrespondencesPraise, Comments, and Reviews:

“Wildly inventive, these ‘forgeries’ roam from Heraclitus to the Queen of Sheba, from Newark to Africa. Highly serious and richly comic, a great trip.”
— Maxine Kumin, Ploughshares

“The wholly original and deeply felt poems of Philip Brady’s Forged Correspondences carry the reader to such faraway locales as Ireland, Zaire, Cleveland Stadium, Flushing and Brooklyn, back into a history that is terribly personal and political and cosmic; and so deep inside, the heart begins to understand what the drumming is all about. After spending time with Sir Roger Casement and Parnell, Herb Score and Sandy Koufax, Heraclitus and the Queen of Sheba, the reader is escorted home again, breathless from Brady’s singular, expansive talents for narrative and song. This book is a journey through glittering empires of the imagination.”
— David Citino

“Philip Brady always writes with speed, inventive energy, verve. At once comic and deeply serious, in a voice able to mix intelligence with sensuous awareness, his imagination projects itself with conviction and the smack of authenticity into other lives, or richly recovers his own past and that of his family. Bright and grainy as they are with local detail, the poems (and some vivid snatches of prose) also add up to an extended meditation on how one lively consciousness processes the bewildering variety of the physical and, ultimately, the moral world.”
— Eamon Grennan

“Philip Brady takes us on a bitter pilgrimage to his past
and the past of places where he has lived, a wary traveller
who knows how hard it is to tell heartbreak from the absurd.
He can say, as Marianne Moore did, ‘I am troubled, I’m dissatisfied,
I’m Irish.’”
— Elton Glazer

“Philip Brady’s Forged Correspondences has been written in blood by a poet who is a brother to the dispossessed. In poem after poem, in relentless rhythms and with uncompromising honesty, whether he locates himself in the present or past, in Queens or Connemara or Africa—the Africa of Sir Roger Casement in his correspondences or the Africa of the stunning basketball and guilt poem “Mazembé”—Brady broods and breaks through into revelation both for himself and for us. In many ways, this powerful book is a tour of personal and historical plague country; no reader will escape from it unscathed, unchanged, or, by way of that complex effect and gift of the most serious and accomplished art, ungrateful.”
— William Heyen

First Born (for Anne Brady)

The day the four McCann girls were shown Brooklyn
and told that beneath their feet were rivers and tunnels,
another fleet of trams, a whole underground city —
that was the day they realized they’d need me.

They could translate pence to nickels,
knew mince meant raisin, but one look
at the brickwork, the smoking girders — one look
at their small blue parents inching under the neon
storming the sky, and all but the baby sensed
they’d need an American — rich, educated,
tall if possible.
________ But where to find one in the grease –
japped kitchens, in the kiosks, in the velvet sacristies?

On Sundays, Paddies in sloped work caps
leered at McCann’s front stoop, greasers
sharked the boulevards, and Jews, garbed as mad priests
muttered and cawed along the lanes of Prospect Park.
But the only way to get an American was to make one.

Mary was eldest so she tried first, but she barely had time
to squint at the houses I’d rent one day.
with turrets and stained glass windows opening into pine limbs
before the gardener she married,
whose tenor voice still trills in McCann memory,
died of a rare cancer and their girl-child
started to swipe coins and grow black
crooked teeth not like me at all.

Then Betty the Prim one entered
the plush mouth of the Savoy movie house
and when she exited daylight
swelled to rubies in her bleary sight, and that night
in her pillow she saw Africa: Bogart’s bone deep
American gaze, and she, shimmying in the dream
Out of her wool skirt, patting her curls.
________________________ All
That summer she peered back into the scum-
White Coney Island surf and then this
Elizabeth, who skipped over sidewalk cracks
And probably steam-ironed her underwear—she
fainted, flailing the flexed waves until
a navvie flung his shoes in after and they
lived like that, fainting and belting each other
while forty years skimmed by like a flat stone and now
she’s babbling this fractured tale to me, the sea
meanwhile having shrunk to a damp senile shell,
but she’s sure—my aunt—and still furious
that it was me thrashed out of her womb like a knife
(I nod, purr sure) and when she stiffens, spits out
That I fecked off the wrong way to some war,
came back someone else, I steal a glance
at my cousin’s military snapshot taped to the steel
nursing home bed frame and swear
when it comes to this between myself
and me we’ll shoot each other.

Then it was Kay who coaxed a wraith by jitterbugging
Her flame fingernails; together they raptured
Bars and K. of C. Halls then boogied home to make a me
Christ would mistake for his transfigured twin;
but I’d been craved so many times
it was born smudged—their whelp—padding the threadbare rug
in orthopedic shoes, getting religion,
soiling his musical necktie in the kitty litter.
And that left Anne the youngest who dreamt at first
of turrets and Bogart but finally
it was the dark she loved, mirrored
when she closed her eyes and pulled
a man down into it. That was the traveling then,
she could glide anywhere, the rivers and tunnels
farther than she’d ever seen or thought—no fear,
no need, and when she looked up I was gone
for all the scams they brooded—I’d
slipped back, easy as a hanky through a ring, back
to where they came from as if
they’d never crossed; though it must be
a sliver of me’s lodged in the obscure god
who sprays graffiti and puffs black soot
on the crust of Brooklyn, wildly fanning
his worshippers back to life.

The Cornice of the Skull

To lurch, crooning, in moonlight from the pub,
____ and wander the Connemara beach,
and grope my tent and collapse, snoring until
____ I wake at high tide in the ocean;

to have my car catch fire on the freeway,
____ rush begging cups of water, to suffer
the fireman’s smirk as he hands me the crisped oil cap
____ left unscrewed on the engine block;

to freeze and raise my arms, then sprint into
____ deep elephant grass, my skin tingling,
waiting for the bullet from the wild-
____ eyed teenage Congolese soldier;

these are the scenes I relive, hope to dream,
____ dying, and perhaps just after death,
waving my arms in laughter, saying yes,
____ from the first I have known this

or gripping my smashed leg in agony;
____ or rocking to music or to loss;
or walking alone, feeling a bird vault
____ in my chest or a stone sink—

how I have practiced, stepping through the dream
____ awake, the way children imagine
what they most fear, knowing that what
____ they imagine best will never be.

How many times have I let my body slip
____ out of itself, in dream, the way
my father did? Three times he tried to live
____ the dream right to the end—

The first—he almost had it right—just as
____ he’d pictured: handling his keys,
his wallet back, waving goodbye, going down
____ only to wake, and find himself

still here—but the world dimmed, slivering
____ down to a cataracted moon,
and night filling him up until there was
____ only a flicker left to die in.

What if no sea or fire consumes, no brain—
____ gray bullet flashes once, at last
to blaze the shape I am—a billion instants
____ locked in a nerve-comb

What if I missed it?—and the fields and pond
____ and sky outside my window go on
darkening, and words still stiffen even
____ as they’re fingertipped,

and in my skull, where I drown, or writhe in flames,
____ or tense as the blood spurts, a voice
drones on, “I thought you lived, still walked the earth,”
____ and I reply forever, “but I do.”