Listen to Julian read “the rules of the game”:

the rules of the game

we agree to be bound by the rules of the game
w/ bouncing diamonds and orange cloudz
and the tiny melodeons in the back of the truck
honking out a seamless tune
and the pegs in the player piano
mindlessly played nevertheless seductive
make a tune worth singing
the sun peaked out w/ its single eye
behind a slate blue triangle
when I loved you mine eye too was single
the hard or the sovereign part of me beaming
I could pretend I lived in the arconia
a building w/ a doorman and that the piano played
only the notes I chose for it
sometimes I fell upon my enemies w/ lust
sometimes I brought them oysters and venison
sometimes I pulled an ochre rope
and started the whole thing all over again

Listen to Julian read "wild and blue"

wild and blue

if there were a kink in the light
or if the note bent a little
we would know we were at the edge
of its expressive spectrum
where the blue turns black in the ice, whose depth
is paradoxically a thinness or
a place to get fish. you could go down into
its dark waters as if groping for a lost balloon
w/ the brick and bramble and
the brambleberries in your throat, choking up your text
at first blush. I had it on good authority the west wind
comes from something more like the south.
it was because the mountains cascaded headlong toward
the sea and not parallel to it. it was because of the
great herons and the sundowner winds. the sweet breath of
the zephyr, saith chaucer, breathes itself into us.
christ, when will it blow.
I’m in the corner w/ the dust and the dust bunnies,
crying my eyes out. it’s no picnic, well it is a sort of picnic
and there’s sand pouring thru the holes in the
picnic basket....
I’m wild except when I’m blue,
and then I am conventional,
stalking silhouettes on the curtain, and imagining
the worst. as for that kink of light in the yonder, and the feeling
that blued the note, well, we only know it
for its availability to bending

Listen to Julian read "when it bend its knee to pray"

when it bend its knee to pray

when it bend its knee to pray & says
what did you think and
what did you think and
i’ve been here before and
i was standing here before and
i’ve been standing at your attention all along and i’ve
been kneeling here at your attention
been standing and kneeling at your attention and
i’ve been kneeling and
standing unbeknownst to your
attention all along
like that star you thought
was the light of a house
been there all along it’s
been here this whole time
joking with you and as you smoked
it too blew out a puff of smoke
and like the ochre mesas in the sunset
crouching like lions
been here all along
been here all along
been there all along like
when it bend its knee to pray and
when it bend its knee to pray and
when its song is in its throat
and when its heart is in its knee

Listen to Julian read "if I could I surely would"

if I could I surely would

/ Yes I would, if I could, I surely would /
/ Well if I could I surely would, stand on that rock where Moses stood /
/ Oh if I could I surely would, stand on the rock (Praise God) where Moses stood /*

I could fly the ocean but
I could be a fly on the wall or
I could be fly as hell but to no great purpose
no witness from a silver plane
I could turn it all into purple prose
a prose that reveled in its circumambulations
as in circling a holy thing
as in moving sunwise around a sacred entity
or with a fascinator like a dutchess neither to any purpose perambulating
with an umbrella in the sun
duck at pleasant lake or was it lake pleasant who kept swimming
into the swimming area
if I had had the right shade of blue ink
or if I had phthalo, X11, or spectral or uranian blue
to grind into a dust to make an ink
to make the neck of the duck shine
I could make it rain in california
I could make a hard and tender rain fall in california
and soften the brittle twigs
and coat the throat of my sweet fox
I could tell you what I really think
I could lift my heart up to the tune of ‘be my lover’ by la bouche
or better yet to ‘blue moon’ as sung by elvis, take 4
where he almost yodels where he employs his smooth
falsetto to the clippity-clop percussion of what seems like horses
or like coconuts clapped together to sound like horses
trotting along in four-four time
one-two-three-four one-two-three-four
the way monty python done
wondering whether a swallow
could carry the weight of a coconut
and I could eat the meat of that coconut
and the dried sweet grapes of yestertime
and no-one could stop me
and the wine would not be tinged with smoke
nor the forest singed past arboration
I could use the blueness to be no longer blue
I could beat back the blues
if I could write, I could have written a poem
beaten blue by the blues and in spite of the blues
and its tinge upon the cuff of my brain
I could have been the best speller of them all
of any decade and made it be known
but antediluvian, ursprache, and feldenkrais
would have taken me down
because I bragged and needed to be brought low
like how ashkah, coyote lets go of the mouse how the chumash tell it
bragging about how it outsmarted the mouse and the mouse
runs away when ashkah opens its mouth
when the coyote begins to brag
when it opens its mouth to brag
if I could have taken some pleasure out of it, I might have
sucked on the conch, or blew on it in such a way
as to make sound occur, a pleasurable sound, or one
that could have called certain spirits forth, or beckoned loved ones to dinner,
if we could have dinner, if we could share the air together,
and talk with each other with our very mouths
I would cook a meal in ten steps that could be done in four
I’d flay the skins of the vegetables myself
and julienne them à la julia, à la julian
I’d pluck herbs from the garden I would have
and mince them so finely
to sprinkle over the resultant spread and I’d
visit the cranberry bog of my long desire
to see the native berries in their feral habitat
once cultivated now wilded
and I’d scoop them up in a water
somewhat fresh and some ways salt, and that the berries too
would be sweet, sour, salty
dripping in my palms I could have tasted them,
were the water clean enough to permit
even an overbearing caretaker to allow their dog companion to dip its paws
and then lick those paws
I would lick them
I would lick my paws and berries
the way the tongue would circle the beloved jewel
of the star antares
antares that winks like the dark orchid of my asshole
or the gem of arcturus his genital shining in boötes
herald of the eve in buttery yellow
I would fall into the butterdish
and revel there in kerrygold like the sun nearing the moneyshot
even in the east where such things are rare
there would be a beach megansett beach west-facing
and a dune there where we could lie protected
among the seagrass and the rosehips
yes I would yes yes and if I could I would
and if I could I surely would
as the song says
stand on that rock where someone or another stood
rock with the remnants of ancient creatures who still hear
with ears
who hear us yet with ossified ears
even as the soul of my estate
unhinged and maskless
but grander and canaryer
was in the burning west

– Simon and Garfunkel, “El Cóndor Pasa (If I Could)”
– “Oh Mary Don’t You Weep,” traditional spiritual
– The Carter Family, “On the Rock Where Moses Stood”

A person seen in profile in an outdoor space with lush vegetation plays guitar and sings into the microphone with their eyes closed. Their hair is in two braids and they wear a cowboy hat, brown vaquero shirt, and a yellow ochre scarf around their neck.

Julian Talamantez Brolaski is a poet and country singer, the author of Of Mongrelitude (Wave Books 2017), Advice for Lovers (City Lights 2012), and gowanus atropolis (Ugly Duckling Presse 2011). With their band Juan & the Pines, Brolaski released an EP, Glittering Forest, in 2019, and their first full-length album is coming out in August 2023. They are a 2023 Bagley Wright lecturer, 2021 Pew Foundation Fellow, and the recipient of the 2020 Cy Twombly Award for Poetry. Their poems have recently been included in When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry (2020) and We Want It All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics (Nightboat 2020).




Photo by Ryan Collerd