Poetry by Brian Beatty


Read More: A Brief Interview with Brian Beatty

Four excerpts from Brazil, Indiana (a folk poem)


My granddad, the year of the coal miners’ strike,
paced the garage until he was out of cigarettes.

where he sat with his dirty white knuckles choking
the Chevy steering wheel blue.

He didn’t bring the heart slowly, quietly killing him
inside until sunset.


Granddad’s jewel-hued work shirts
weighed down cold wire hangers in the closet in the garage

until I grew into and inherited whatever I wanted.

Nobody else in my junior high had their own
low-hanging cloud of coal dust, diesel fumes and dry rot

following them through the cruel, crowded halls between bells.

Not even the secret smokers barking up lungs
out in the alley behind the school

in that old local tradition.


Antenna TV static blasted down sideways
from the sky burying the farmhouse

well past its windows and doors
trapping the grandparents and the boy

inside a cold quiet for days.
The blizzard miracle of 1977

was how they survived
eating Milky Way candy bars.


How could I forget?

I was raised around dining room tables listening to folks
tell and retell the same handful of stories — some of them

possibly even true, like the one recalled every Thanksgiving
(before we ate) about my grandmother three times great

who chased down then hanged in a tree the dog
that kept getting after her chickens as family sat inside

waiting to say grace.

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Brian Beatty’s jokes, poems and short stories have appeared in numerous print and digital publications, including Conduit, The Evergreen Review, The Glasgow Review of Books, Hobart, McSweeney’s, Midwestern Gothic, Opium, The Quarterly, Seventeen and The Sycamore Review. Red Bird Chapbooks published his collection Coyotes I Couldn’t See in 2016. The Brazil, Indiana sequence is due out from Kelsey Books/Aldrich Press. 

Read More: A Brief Interview with Brian Beatty