Tony Brewer

Byproduct of Divorce #87: The Laundromat

This guy is folding his socks by the front-loaders. His
tattoos read like restraining orders.
All the names are on neighborhood watch lists
and he looks like he’s been crying.

He does a poor job ignoring a sorority sister turning her
white panties pink and giggling into a phone. Mom may
have scrimped and pinched her into college but it’s Daddy’s
money dressing her now.
They tell everyone how much everything costs.

I hold the door open for myself
and my basket and soap.
Feeling the way a house feels after
the inside has been wrecked by a storm
or the water’s gone down after a flood.
I resist the urge to throw it all away
but everything I own is unclean.

A young boy sits down next to me
on the year-old-magazine-strewn bench.
His mother has him in her eye.
She is waiting for his misbehavior.
She needs him to act up.

He says he doesn’t have a daddy
as if it’s still news to him.
His life broken down into desires
and what he has or has not.
Ice cream, PlayStation, enough space to run. He
is just old enough to take
steps toward satisfaction.

Quarters, detergent, cold/cold, don’t overload,
then dry, fluff and fold, and ding!
Clean sheets as warm and soft
as cookies right from the oven.
Everybody likes sliding
in between clean sheets.

But Mama tells him not to
bother me. He’s reading, she says.
It’s OK, but she orders him
to her side anyway.
He jumps up and runs
and nearly makes it to the parking lot
with an empty laundry cart.

All he wants is to get closer
to the gull-winged hooptie parked at
the audio shop over there.
He takes his belt off so his shorts
droop like the big boys’ pants do. His
Spider-Man flip-flops slapping his feet
in time with the beat of Ludacris
vibrating windows from across the

It’s a song he says Mama likes and
he knows all the words.
But Mama doesn’t smile.
Far away from her
is where he says he’s going
pushing that cart all the way. She
thinks he’ll never get there. Not in
But he is already there.
Next time he won’t come back.


The Power in the Blood

We knew Uncle Ivan had diminished though he
was still mowing his yard in May like the old
men do around here
He got worse & then he was gone

The pastor opens Ivan’s bible & bookmarks fall
out & post-its & dog-eared pages
tell him where to start & how to finish the service

I cannot keep straight who hugs & who shakes
hands – make awkward A-frames with cousins
who don’t & get pulled into aunts who do We try
to prefer to stay
at arm’s length behind masks –
find ourselves drawn in & caught up

We all have farmer eyes
downturned – an inner weariness
& wrinkly from sun
Look like we’ve been crying

Comfort in the quiet of a field
adjoining this manicured cemetery
A silence everyone agrees on
except somewhere drones a tractor
& wind rustles tall drying corn

He’s going home the pastor says
as the song kicks in

Precious memories, how they linger
How they ever flood my soul
In the stillness of the midnight
Precious sacred scenes unfold

It’s hard nowadays not to be from the Internet &
its eternal September of 1993

But I am from a place with a name
tiny & completely mapped
the same way Capricorns come
from a specific moment in space-time
where everything stopped
when stars aligned along trajectories &
atoms coalesced
into me were conjured

Every time I visit that little town
its amber grows a little thicker
Home less complicated than a world bumping up
against everyone’s large concern Most roads
around here I know
like the back of my hand
I needed GPS to find this cemetery

That’s how far away I live &
how long since I’ve been back
My kin are missing fingers
lost to the plow & long buried
I miss the sanctuary of this land
as I steady myself reaching out
into largely empty air

No music at all except
the hum & whirr of honest machines &
the grace of being landlocked


Tony Brewer has lived in Indiana forever. His books include Hot Type Cold Read (Chatter House Press, 2013), Homunculus (Dos Madres Press, 2019), The History of Projectiles (Alien Buddha Press, 2021), and Pity For Sale (Gasconade Press, forthcoming). He frequently collaborates with experimental audio collective Urban Deer Recording Cvlt and is one-third of the poetry performance group Reservoir Dogwoods. More at