Brother and sister pose for the length of a sandwich, a coffee, and a smoke. They sit with little expression for the man with the small pencil who’s filling them out like a form. Something he does for a living, for the mother who’ll pay for labor, not art.

The small café crowd focuses on to the spoken word cat howling on stage: Listen, I’m no kind of smooth, can’t follow a groove. I’m no sensation. My rhymes are frustration. All’s I have is no fear. That’s why I’m still standin’ here. These words won’t berate ya, not a gun to assassinate ya… They hear a tomcat, not art.

The man at the taco stand stares as if into television, watching the woman eat: the way she squeezes limes, spoons salsa as if her show Is new—and free, so she abides his steadfast gaze, doesn’t shy or blush as he studies how she flickers and glows—until she rises to leave, and he suddenly realizes she is   not art.

I carol, chant, yodel, although my parched throat is tired and some days I am sure all students hear is the pattern of my noisy dress; all they see is the ruined sound raveling from me, not art. Not art.

Cheers to boiling dry another kettle. A toast to forgetting your lunch, where you parked, whether you, after all, drove. Applause for the brain that refuses to remember to roll out the trash, to recall the grocery list, to recollect names—of students and friends and favorite characters. This is my middle-aged art.



By Erika Jo Brown

Not many passions take your pants off—
painting with oils, reading in the afternoon,
other people’s bodies. I want to really
say something here. I want to be clear.

But just as no two people see the same
colors, what you hear is not what I’m
saying. Not conversations as much as
serial misunderstandings, proximate
in space. One considers the dictionary
definition of “man.” One considers
the definition of “woman.” One considers
arm hair, soft spaces on a hot body.

The obsessive heat-seeking quality of
attraction. The paint on my pinkie is for
you—a little poison, a little turpentine.

Read the rest of the poem at:


* What is your art? What is the passion that takes “your pants off?”

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