The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2022

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FEB 2022 Issue


The Odyssey of Yes and No


No I cannot say no I say yes
no cannot be said
until the father is dead
Even when the father is dead
no I will say yes not no
No is not said in front of the mother
even when the father is dead
the mother mirrors his square head
even when the father is dead
the mother does not stop
saying yes to the father
but when I ask the mother
about her suicide
she says no not yes no
no she says he made it up
no she says no
then I cry like Tiny Tears
who arrived in a box
from the box tops of Sugar Pops
I hold the mother’s hand
and we sit without yes or no
Even if she closes her eyes and dies
she said no
there was no suicide
If she can say yes
while saying no
she says yes
but she said no
which sets the story straight


No the father says no the father says no do not say no
The daughter says yes she says yes to the father
yes yes yes yes she says over and over
only yes the father said do not say no
the mother says no yes no yes yes yes yes no yes yes
the daughter says yes yes no until she needs to say no but says yes no
and falls down
when she gets up she tries to say no she tries to say no but no is too hard to say
so she says no yes yes no yes yes no yes no she says yes yes no yes yes no
until she says no yes
then she says no
A truck drives towards the daughter and she shouts yes yes no no no
the truck is very close and she says yes no no no no
the road is late at night and the daughter’s no becomes the sparrow
the sparrow flies above the truck and it doesn’t save the daughter
the truck may have heard yes yes no and yes no no no
or only yes
the truck may have listened or didn’t listen
there is no way to know
but we know the daughter said no after yes
and the father said no and the mother said no yes no yes no yes no
and the daughter died


This is the key that turns the lock
the lock is like a clock
it rings like the clock in the tower
when all the petals from the chestnut trees
on Rue de la Porte
lift over the picnic tables
and cover the lawn and the cars
in the parking lot

The key is stuck in the old lock
that belongs to the broken chapel
Nothing turns quietly
The mother and father cannot look back
they are dead
The daughter can spin like the petals of chestnut trees
in a resurrection if the truck hears the daughter’s no no no no
or if there is no truck when the daughter says no
if the daughter says no and the father says no, you may not say no
and the mother says no there was no suicide
she says his yes was no
no was never no
was yes
then the daughter
over time
can rise

We Should All Be Faucets

We should all be faucets
open your mouth
pour me out pour me in
pour me out of your mouth
I am a faucet
we should all be faucets

The wind runs in the fog runs out
the leaves run out are you a faucet?
a clamp on the ear keeps meaning out
we can hear the sound but not the words
we can close our eyes to keep words out to keep words in
we should all be faucets we all are faucets

What falls from the spout and clogs the sink?
are you a faucet? I am a faucet
dreams fill the culvert that floods the stream
memory rises from under my skin
pour the vinegar in
the door is a faucet

A crack in the ceiling lets sound fall out
let the violin in
let the oboe in
let the softening reed
in the mother’s mouth in
she was a faucet

Let the pressure in
let the leaf scrim out
let the caked nail in to see where its been
let the old dirt out
on the edge of a cloth with the tip of a pin
let the memory out let the memory in

We should all be faucets are you a faucet?
let the ashes in
let the lost cat out
let the mother out
we should all be faucets
let the mother in

When you’re perfectly clean, let stillness in
let the pencil out
let the dead-sleep out
let tenderness in
let the chrysalis in
she was not a faucet

My father is not who he claimed to be
we can wash away in a current of air
let his big smile out let his rose garden out
let his library out
let his slap on the back
with joy pour out

We should all be faucets
let the answers out
let the panic out
let the pills fall out
I am her faucet let the story out
my mother is dead let my mother in

Let the necktie out
let the gas light out
let thunder in
let the sisters and brother and the doctors out
let the dog in the sun in the locked car out
we all are faucets we should all be faucets

Let the meaning in let the dead sea in
she was not a faucet
let a pillar of salt and silence in
let meaning in
are you a faucet? I am a faucet
we should all be faucets

Prayer for the Lions


Let sleeping lions lie
Let them hang from the trees
Let the gifts they brought us
find strangers’ hands
Let them say thank you
for the happiness they found in our homes

Let the lions rest
They are broken and sealed
Some grew up in the shadows of brick
Some cut paths through fields, near the grasslands of their births
Some found their way to new villages beside rivers
traveling above deep seas

Let sleeping lions know their brood
Let them dream of their young
and protect them in dreams
as they did not protect them in daylight and darkness
May they begin their journeys in death
with humility, unlike the reigns of their pride

In the journeys beyond death
may shame hold their legs
with the fear they created and the blindness
through the desecration of bodies, the silence of mistrust
far from their swaggering ballast, their absence and assertion
their indelible roars

May the lions rest when they believe
we know who they were
we know who they are
and we release them
as we miss them
no longer our heroes


Jan Freeman

Jan Freeman is the author of three collections of poems, most recently Blue Structure (Calypso Editions). She is a 2020?2022 associate at the Five College Women's Studies Research Center.


The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2022

All Issues