A New Poem by Brandon Som

July 21, 2016  By Brandon Som

One of my favorite images in all of contemporary fiction comes from Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49, when the landscape of urban Southern California is described as if an exposed transistor radio’s circuit board. Pynchon writes: “Though she knew even less about radios than about Southern Californians, there were to both outward patterns a hieroglyphic sense of concealed meaning, of an intent to communicate.” Som, the winner of the 2015 Kate Tufts Discovery Award for his collection The Tribute Horse, is a poet constantly speaking to the woven music of ancestry, land, language. His poetry, as seen in these evocative, riddled lyrics excerpted from an extended sequence below, also seems bent on a hieroglyphic sense to conceal and communicate (conceal to communicate?). His brainy dance with language uncovers the way words are gutted with meaning: migrant, transhistorical, technological, bilingual. Or as he himself says here much more vividly: “pigtails of transistors.” The cross-wiring (cross-writing) of this poet’s radio soul is something we should all keep a close listen to. 

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—Adam Fitzgerald, Poetry Editor


from Tripas



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Cómo se dice—

my circuitry—

sews me—me cose—


word by word

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remember el alamo)


& dictates—

how do you say?

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She translates


wires me from

the Latin weaves me

Rewires rosary—

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Rosario was my

mom’s name, she tells me

Decades pray me


an aria con cuerdas

—como Ariadne

Me recuerda—rewires me


Brought home diode

leads to straighten

at the kitchen table


Her niños—my years

later tías & tíos —

home from Sierra Vista


lent a hand & pulled

pigtails of transistors—

leaping code switches


& warming tortillas

Their work knit wavelength

to towers—spoolers


like great bobbins

Oir origins—

an echo in the hecho


años de manos

that string & assemble

the skip rope of radio


Read of a simple cellphone

re-wired to witcher

shaking—like a hazel


switch for the dowser—

& guiding migrants

to where water is cached


Considered Aquarius

& the mouth-strung fish

soldered on the zodiac:


how the sun in the ecliptic

—like a radio’s dial—

forecast rains to come


‘Mojados’ my tío once

shouted out the car window

at the newly arrived


punched the cassette tape

(Bill Withers ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’)

& sped through the light


Hermes my hermano

—of the megahertz

her hands made—


Orphic with orejas

messages a mestizaje

over transverse wave


Ola is amp & trough

Frequency = waves

passing a given point:


Nogales or black walnut

Nowa:l in O’odham

for the prickly pear


ear-like in Sonora—

a border-crossing desert

with ‘voice constant’


Motor(ola)—the first

maquila here ‘to assemble’

—arrived in 1967


Corridos in corridors

of cognates—

arroz is arroz is arroz


White long grain

browned in skillet oil

boiled in tomaté


Add garlic & cebolla

Simmer covered

Ya serví   Ya me voy


Served us the color

of sundowns Siéntate

up over us the Lord’s


Last Cena Say grace

a seine net cast

With purse & badge


she left then for

nightshift  Estrellas stray

We clutch & sift

Brandon Som
Brandon Som
Brandon Som currently lives in Los Angeles where he teaches composition in The Writing Program at the University of Southern California. He is the author of The Tribute Horse, winner of the 2015 Kate Tufts Discovery Award.

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