Dustin Brookshire

for Denise

You’re a bad apple, says my aunt.
She’s thankful I fell from a different tree.

I won’t disagree. Three of her four never
graduated high school. All had shotgun weddings,

and I write letters to one in a Florida prison.
He was on the news—seems like every channel.

I admit: I’m glad we have different last names.
But I’m the apple whose seeds won’t bear fruit,

which makes me bad as gay can be.
How does she speak of her son? The hold up.

His pulling the trigger. A bullet to the back of the head.
How does she explain the fruit she bore?

I say it is rotten to the core.

*This piece was originally published in the sixth issue of Assaracus.




My mother dreams of dark running water.
She calls. It was the death dream.

I follow the speed limit.

I walk faster than normal through crosswalks.

I am even more careful when showering,

a fall now seems more probable.

When I was a child she told me

the secret of this dream—

someone would die

but she didn’t know who.

The dream came when my grandmother

was admitted to the hospital,

when a family friend

was supposed to be winning

her battle with cancer.

And, the time it came

when she couldn’t think

of anyone sick, my father’s favorite

employee was hit by a car.

I told you
, she whispered.

I prayed to God—begged Him

not to pass this curse to me.

I had no desire to ache in my soul

with limited knowledge.

As a teenager I thought it all

a world of coincidence—

that there aren’t signs placed

to tell us what will come.

But, yesterday, I was in a bar

with Julie, trying to let go

and when I looked up

I saw we were sitting under

a poster of Dolly Parton.

I knew this was a sign.

The night was going to be good.

Everything on our trip would be okay.

This sign was meant just for me.

Honestly. How much different am I from my mother?

*This piece is forthcoming in the
Queer South anthology (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2014).


for Dr. G

I’m fascinated with the way
we can purposely betray someone,

how we know we’re doing wrong
then feel guilty with a chance

of it repeating. We can take
someone’s heart and destroy it—

a piece of ice placed
in the sun’s light.

We can hold someone’s hand
so softly, yet twist it suddenly.

I’m fascinated with the way
we can become the betrayed

when once we were the betrayers.
It’s like we’re given medicine

for an illness we once transmitted.
How we miss the warning signs

even though we once created them
and held them high in the air.

I’m fascinated with betrayal.
I’m fascinated with sin itself—

the way it captures us
like a fish on a hook.

© Dustin Brookshire


Read the SubtleTea interview with Dustin here.
Get information about his chapbook,
To the One Who Raped Me, here