Brandon Jordan Brown: “Biology”

Brandon Jordan Brown was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and raised in the South. He moved to California to pursue his MA in theology and currently lives in Los Angeles. Brandon is a 2014 PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellow, and his work has been published or is forthcoming in The Bakery, Day OnedecomPWinter Tangerine and The Rufous City Review. He is currently writing his first book of poetry, Viking Ships in Los Angeles.



In the East Tennesse home,
where the kudzu ate up the fence
like your neighbor’s dog that treed the cat
and chewed up its kittens, you
and your brother used to go off
to room too small for anyone to live in,
and there was a pressed-wood shelf in it,
and carpet tan and thick like the hair
of an old-fashioned girly doll,
and a box-shaped computer with games
based on stories from the Bible.
When no one was around, you would look
at one of your mother’s textbooks,
the word BIOLOGY on the blue-black spine
standing tall like a tomato plant staked up
by the broken spindle of an old rocking chair.
She went back to college,
so you both had teachers at the same time,
and you and your brother wanted to see a vagina
one night during dinner when some people came
over to the house. So you sneaked out, but John,
the man with the mustache and yellowed
lenses in his glasses, who eventually left his wife
for a woman he would have sex with or meet
at a Ruby Tuesdays a few towns over, walked in
while you were trying to understand
a cross-section of female genitalia.
He could see fear on your faces –
the two of you studying the illustration like
a pair of old farmers making sense of failed crops,
and he asked you what you were doing, and you told him
you were looking at flowers. He smiled,
and you could see the stubble he left on his face
on account of not caring about the mother of his children,
and said Hm? Flowers on the human body?
These days, your brother has a wife and a baby, and you talk
on the phone about blood pressure and the lawn,
but you haven’t thought to ask him if he ever wonders
whether the woman John would come
up behind in the hotel room and kiss
on the neck after church choir practice
tasted like honeysuckle.

What are you looking for?