Brian Clements

Brian Clements is the founding editor of Sentence: a Journal of Prose Poetics and of Sentence's parent press, Firewheel Editions. He is editor with Jamey Dunham of An Introduction to the Prose Poem (Firewheel) and the author of several books, including Disappointed Psalms (Meritage Press) and And How to End It (Quale Press). He coordinates the MFA in Professional Writing program at Western Connecticut State University.

What is (or has been) your favorite editing project and why?

My favorite editing project at the moment is Kugelmass, a new journal of literary humor forthcoming in late 2010 or early 2011. Actually, I'm the publisher and the true editor is David Holub, but I'm enjyoying the thrill of creating and launching another new journal. Sentence: a Journal of Prose Poetics has always been greatly rewarding to me as an editor, but I think it's time for some new blood in those pages.

from “not meant for you        Dear Love”

What if we were in Austin
I wouldn’t want to be in Chicago
Especially in the summer that’s one of those places
Where people die in the summer

Because they’re too stubborn or too poor to get AC
Who wouldn’t want AC
It’s tearing a hole in the ozone, but still
I’ll smoke a cigar every now and then, too

And think about taking the shirt
Off a                Dear Love
And run my hands up to
And take yr nipples on my tongue

Smoke              the rain           sun


I’d like to learn Helter Skelter
And build it into a large addition
A projection booth
Ragging on liars isn’t enough

Did the cimbalum concert do you in
Or was it calling the hogs                Love
I put you in a trance with a box of reds
You in your boy underwear

Did you think I didn’t see you coming out of the shower
Or did you think I didn’t think you thought I saw
A curly haired boy       bottom of the drawer
The moles on your kidskin neck

Something outside dying all night


You may laugh when you hear the news
Barcelona Monolithos Heber Springs
Strange apartment       Stock room       Projection booth
The country club pool

You can dig up a lot of experience
Plenty of mistakes       You’re better than I
And then one evening       William Carlos Williams
There’s something superior about him isn’t there

The mind goes down into a crack in the ground
But still can’t escape the doubled vision
Cleavage above and cleavage below       The mind
A bit of saxifrage       My tree in Brooklyn       And asphodel

That greeny flower


This blue and gray day is about to fall asleep
Were the kids playing tennis
Killing chickens           That must have been
Thirty years ago or more           So long, heroes

And who was a bigger hero than Casey Jones
And his forty foot dick
Irrigating the cotton fields
Where else can you go when you’re at home

Get away from the past incarnations
A bunch of hot air                WMD
Even the snow and the cobblestones
And Frankenstein and Dracula and the Wolfman

And my V-12 convertible bedpan


Those were the best fucking peaches in the universe
So let’s get up and go get some more
The china is still strawberry-stained
I’ve heard the center of the pit is arsenic don’t

Let the dog eat it just give him an apple
If you put all the great fruit you’ve had in your life
Into a room how much fruit would that be
How many smoothies could you make

How many poems would it take
To equal the nutritional value of those fruits
What percentage of the RDA could you get
If you had a nice long supply

Of great fucking peach smoothy arsenic percentage poems


I try not to smoke           I’m not in love with smoking
But a good cigar with some bourbon
Can take care of all the discussion
And make you dream a silver tree

I pulled a name out of my beard
That didn’t go to anything of mine
It must have gone to something that belonged
To Billy the Kid

But being awake is not being alive
And being married is not being broken
There’s no such thing as poetry
Not even when thongs

Are given up


If guitar playing was so damned easy
Why do they make such a big fucking deal out of it
I’m not interested in making myself clear
But a good simple song

Hard to beat out of my head with a French phrase
Where else can you go           Casey Jones
And that was hard to get out of mind
Once a professor tried to get me to go to England with him

That was hard too
There was a room and a small couch
There was a window slightly ajar
There was someone outside smoking a cigarette

There was Alexander Pope


I never beat anyone up but some kids
Used to try to take me on
To prove themselves and I’d have to
Put down their little rebellions gently

Love                don’t leave with them
I’m just joking about the blood I’m too old
Come here and let me tell you my real name
If you promise not to tell it

To anyone with balls                attached to a battery
I wonder if you knew this morning
When I was thinking about murdering
Every male within a 75-mile radius

Just to keep them from you

In Review


I am the father of a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. Too late to Spain, a marathon of games could not save me. I looked into the eyes of an empire and saw a pestilence eating away at them, wasted no time making my presence and my true identity known.

Soon, off the coast of Russia, more than 100 sons dead beneath the Barents Sea, I struggled in the new century. The new economy burst, the Serbian out of business, I thought I knew despair until I stared into the eyes of the Court, turned south, toward another boy and his father.


Only in the mysterious equation of love can the government break Soviet codes. Only with the help of my wife could I discover the truth about my old friends. This is not a world you take lightly. It is in no one’s best interest.

It works like this: you actually see the vectors from a spy plane crash over China; the chrome of screams during cleansing in Indonesia; the triangle of a 13-year-old Chinese girl’s pike mid-air; the plasma wake of an airliner’s exhaust.


With the right song and dance, you can get away with murder. The tabloids go crazy for girls in bed together. Whatever keeps you out of the chair, I guess. Early in the tale, you can see it’s more about PR than marriage. Old news.

Just keeping throwing up the old loss and no one asks questions; think like that for long and you find yourself at the end of empire. When times get tough, the oligarchs cash in, a veteran takes to sniping from a trunk, a man who would be king covers his eyes.


The journey is increasingly dangerous in non-traditional war. These battles have one thing in mind: distract the eye. The army of the dead are unaware of what is leading them. Even if they overcome their self-doubt, who knows what will come from the mountains and rivers?

The answer is burning with gas over Texas. A morning boom and colonization scatters all over the range. In the mind of an evangelical blind with power, every war is the last war.


Beyond this, there is a past: estrangement from a daughter, welfare scams, paralysis, attorneys in tow, transfer of assets. After all this, who wouldn’t want to die? Who wouldn’t try to choke on her own blood?

And that’s the least of it: child abduction from a bedroom window, massive blackout from market manipulation. Take your pick of distractions like dozens of tabled bills. The tabloids go crazy. The Person of the Year, like his sons, is a dead man.


You think you know who you are. You have no idea. Car thieves are constantly theorizing on race. You never know what you’ll do until the bullets start flying around your daughter, and all the stories of irritated couples and drugged out mothers are interwoven.

All you know is that Deep Throat has a name, and so do hurricanes. The government can take your land any time it wants. Given a T-Rex’s soft tissue, we’ll see one in a zoo sooner or later. You just can’t count on the government to save you. Good job, good job. Good job….


All these lies. How far will you take it? South Boston? Infiltrating the mob will get you nowhere. Plans, counter-plans, double lives. Tempted to turn on friends? What is a friend? Where is your son?

My friend, there is no friend. The true identity of the rat will die with the administration, because no one’s talking past his silver spoon. Meanwhile, in Sudan, there is no friend. Even Pluto is demoted. Keep an eye on the Obama kid. Somewhere else, clues are brewing. Keep an eye on the Obama kid.


There are no clean getaways. You try to sneak off with a couple million and see if a psychopath tracks you down. The police are about as useful as bystanders. That’s who gets killed, and one step ahead is one step closer to dead.

If you don’t believe it, try Fallujah. Try black site interrogations. Try a peaceful coup. Try keeping mercenaries from shooting civilians. Try getting rid of prosecutors you don’t like. Might as well try to keep them in the dark about your cream and your clear, your celebrity deaths, your stem cells.


Love and money... You have mixed them both with the whole nation watching. And look where it’s gotten you: suspicion of cheating, gang banged, love lost in layers of questions. What remains a mystery is why you’re here at all and why everyone else has failed.

That’s what you get for an education. By any means necessary you’ll construct a new hope and give it good odds on the same fate as peace in Palestine. Win gold eight times over and think it means something. Win an election and a basket of hate.


Once upon a time in Nazi occupied... where is it? Or maybe it was pirates, or someone trying to shove a tennis ball down your throat? We’ll believe it when you show us a certificate.

Think it over during the tea party that follows the town hall meeting. I’ll let you finish. It all will resolve soon on the screen:

Mr. Why


K    = Born in Brno
       = flight from the Anschluss
       = early rheumatic fever, possible cardiac damage
       = bouts of paranoia, fear of being murdered by colleagues
       = Lutheran marries dancer from Der Nachtfalter nightclub
       = fear of being poisoned by refrigerators
       = eats baby food, butter, and laxatives
       = belief in ghosts (and in mathematical Forms, and in time travel)
       = insistence that a loophole in the Constitution allows for the institution of dictatorship


“Every chaos is a wrong appearance”


U    = suspicion of being a Jew
       = attacked by gang while walking with wife in Vienna
       = pink flamingos on the lawn in Princeton
       = Einstein continues working just to have the privilege of company walking home
       = some statements have no value
       = suspicion of being a German spy for long coastal walks in Maine
       = condemned Truman, admired Eisenhower
       = mathematical entities exist independently of the human mind (see K = belief in ghosts)
       = completeness and incompleteness do not contradict


Drive a stake into the heart of formalism


R    = Proof
Axiom 1. (Dichotomy) A property is positive if and only if its negation is negative.
Axiom 2. (Closure) A property is positive if it necessarily contains a positive property.
Theorem 1. A positive property is logically consistent (i.e., possibly it has some instance.)
Definition. Something is God-like if and only if it possesses all positive properties.
Axiom 3. Being God-like is a positive property.
Axiom 4. Being a positive property is (logical, hence) necessary.
Definition. A property P is the essence of x if and only if x has P and P is necessarily minimal.
Theorem 2. If x is God-like, then being God-like is the essence of x.
Definition. NE(x) means x necessarily exists if it has an essential property.
Axiom 5. Being NE is God-like.
Theorem 3. Necessarily there is some x such that x is God-like.


       = Islam is a consistent religious idea
       = The trustworthy is a limited set
       = There is something God-like in constructible universes


Posit a set of all sets totally self aware, heart-damaged, afraid of ghosts.


T    = in any axiomatic mathematical system there are propositions that cannot be proved
               or disproved within the axioms of the system.
       = a computer can never be programmed to answer all mathematical questions.
       = if the system is consistent, it cannot be complete
       = given any collection of bins, each containing at least one object, it is possible to make a
               selection of exactly one object from each bin, even if there are infinitely many bins
               and there is no "rule" for which object to pick from each
       = the universe is constructible (that is, can be described entirely in terms of simpler sets—
               baby food, coastal walks, ghosts, spies)


Math, unlike God or the universe, is not reducible to itself

G    = one exact solution of Einstein’s field equations suggests a rotating universe in which
       = according to Hawking and Ellis, light emitted from an event in the world line of a speck of
               dust forms a spiral cusp and can intersect the original world line of the same speck of dust,
               which means
       = in such a universe it would be possible to visit the past
       = the possibility of time travel implies the impossibility of time
       = one solution without time implies that time in all solutions is an illusion
       = how such a “mysterious and seemingly self-contradictory thing” as time could “form the                basis of the world’s and our existence”
       = time is either necessary or not at all
Where is time?




D    = will X ever turn up on Mars? is it Martian-producible?
       = all Cretans are liars, said the Cretan
       = not all worlds are equal
       = in a field of birds, what is figure and what is ground?
       = the field of birds is recursive, written


All consistent axiomatic formulations of number theory include undecidable propositions


E    = wouldn’t eat unless his wife Adele tasted his food
       = Adele hospitalized for six months
       = refuses to eat
       = body weight 65 lbs.
       = distinction of proof from the truth
       = starvation and inanition
       = ?


Kurt Godel is dead, not reducible to himself.


L    = Schedule a rendez-vous, then schedule to be elsewhere
       = Prefer to speak by phone, even when only a few feet away
       = the ghost in the machine
       = 4/28/1906 with birth mates Audrey Hepburn, Bob Fosse, Celine Dion, Chris Rock, Fidel
               Castro,David Bowie, Franz Kafka, Hillary Clinton, Jackie Chan, John Travolta, John
               Wayne, Jon Stewart, Niels Bohr, Philip K. Dick, Phil Mickelson, and Toni Braxton
       = under the High Priestess
       = and the sign Laguz
       = numerological words of presence “anarchy, duty, fascism, fury, galaxy, robot, secret”
       = numerological words of periphery “infinity, monolith, puzzle, voyeur”
       = ignorabimus


Be Kurt Godel,
G-d, el …

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