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2017 Frost Place Chapbook Fellow Conor Bracken

Meet Conor Bracken

Conor Bracken’s poems have been nominated for the Best of Net and received grants from Inprint and the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, have appeared or are forthcoming in Adroit Journal, Forklift OH, Muzzle, The New Yorker, and THRUSH. A graduate of Virginia Tech, a former poetry editor for Gulf Coast, and the assistant director of a university writing center, he received his MFA from the University of Houston, in Houston, Texas, where he and his wife currently live.

2017 Judge Diane Seuss’s Praise for Henry Kissinger, Mon Amour

The poems of Henry Kissinger, Mon Amour manage to construct a Kissinger who is both a radioactive archetype for white patriarchal sociopathy and as tangible as a liver-spotted hand. Kissinger is translated to us by speaker-as-middle-man holding the tyrant’s “x-rays to the moon’s blue light,” as boy toy, apologist, and victim, disfigured by his dance with devil, anti-heroic in his collusion with tyranny with just a whiff of gallantry in his willingness to kiss and tell. These poems churn the guts and delight the senses, the language precise, juicy, with a napalm-shimmer, the diction creating a self-deluded truth teller, “striving towards a whiteness that’s translucent,” in turns absurd, hilarious, entertaining, post-traumatic, and terribly sad, drenched in a sort of post-coital shame and yet an unquenchable, awful desire. “As American/…As the cruise missile in his living room/we take turns straddling like a mustang,” Conor Bracken has written the perfect collection for our time.”

— Diane Seuss


“HENRY TALKS ABOUT THE HYENAS” from Henry Kissinger, Mon Amour

 By Conor Bracken

he once saw outside Harar,
and the men who fed them scrapmeat
from their mouths and of course

I think of language, of the tongue
and what we hang out of our mouths
because we want something to come

and wrest it from us,
to chew some meaning
out of the marbled half-discarded meat

but I’m always doing this—
making bad metaphors of moments,
trying to tape transparencies

over the shifting world
as it erases itself
a little bit at a time

so here is the stonewalled city
brimming with yellow light
as night falls

by starry crumb
into the dusty cup of it.

Here’s the dirty beat-up Nissan
Henry drives
out of the dented fortress,

the headlights that catch sixty eyes
like bright pennies
glowing underwater.

The raw red gobbets
held out to them
and the soft crunch

of stones as the hyenas approach.
Their mouths open like a book
in which terrible things are written.

“And the darkness?” I want to know:
“How would you describe it.”
“I’d say cavernous,” he replies

“but that would make every hyena’s mouth
a cave-let, so let’s go with velvety”
and we like that.

The night a curtain
we can roughen with one hand
and smooth with the other.


(first published in Puerto del Sol)