Three poems by Terri Brown-Davidson

Tony Romeo’s Rose Period at the Fair


 

In Ayn Rand’s hierarchy, geniuses prevail.

There’s never a second ranking, back-up men talented enough

To paint for pittances, stub cigarettes out on their shoes.

Availing myself of sport, I meandered the midway

Of the Clowson County Fair. Cotton candy, club-sized

Turkey legs dripping grease from shiny lips,

The Tilt-a-Whirl plummeting

And, seated on a crate, Antonio Masachio Romeo III,

His eyes riveted into their near-lidless gaze,

Rosacea pocking his flattened boxer’s nose,

Magenta abstractions--smeared impasto gobs--

Lined up against the fence for five bucks apiece.

Tony muttered and dozed; passing children laughed

At his magnum opi. Yet, there was something

Roiling beneath the heaped-up oil surfaces:

A mind hot-wired for seconds before implosion.

Orgasmic white lights of succulent kitsch.

Mouthing words I couldn’t catch,

The roller coaster rattling, a fat kid

Shouted “fuck.” I gave Tony ten bucks 

For a painting I admired; smiling, slurring

His words, he loaded it onto my truck.

I took it home and hung it on my wall.

Pink dollops, fractured faces, obliterated figures

Wailing from the depths of hell

In their Stanley Kowalski slouches.

Tony Romeo’s Opus

When he died, they tossed all his paintings out;

The carnival moved on to the next sleazy city,

Trailers’ tin-can sides winking under sun.

Like crusty old elephants they lumbered past.

In weeds springing up around me

I found the trash can, its lid thrust down

Over Tony Romeo’s art. I tugged the paintings out,

Stacked them, tattooed babes, alleys where he’d slept,

The obliterated, Skid-Row homeless. 

I carted his legacy home,

Hammered nails into each wall to hang 

Each rose-colored remnant, conjured Van Gogh’s dreamy

Self perceptions when, mirror-gazing, craving

Some Absolute Truth, he painted his mummified,

Ear-ravaged head. Tony Romeo, I believed,

Experienced few revelations. Yet, praying

For his suffering to abate, Van Gogh, cringing

Among crows, bullet-blasted his gut.

If Tony Romeo died with less dignity, curled 

Fetus-tight in the snow sifting over him,

He’d been offered no choice except freezing.

Scattering Largess 
 

At first, he slept behind his paintings to protect them. 

Other carnies rented booths, stepped into silver trailers to sleep. 

But Tony, a “bottom feeder,” owned three dozen oils, two pairs of jeans 

Rubbed raw at the knees, ten patched flannel shirts. 

A vendor told me Tony downed a six-pack a day, 

Invested in his wife’s contempt 

Until, stock climbing, he collected.

A cloud burst at two a.m.: 

Tony shielded his head with an abstract; later, storm abating,

He examined the mess that was left, the runny colors, muddied canvas. 

Peeling off his shirt, draping it over a single safe painting, 

Tony remembered, drunk and besotted, 

Those mornings in bed with his wife, 

When all the world seemed wet.

Terri Brown-Davidson's first book of poetry, The Carrington Monologues, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Her first novel is  Marie, Marie: Hold On Tight. She is currently working on a book-length poem and two novels.