Rumpus Original Poetry: Two Poems by Brandon Amico





Lucky Number 13


One in ten Americans will not read this poem.
Since you’re here, nine others will skip over it, maybe
the next one too, to be safe. Eighty percent of high-
rises contain no 13th floor—a rectangle of
air pressurizes 12th and 14th’s adjacent sides,
filled with saltpeter

                               and cherry trees twisting in the
ceilinged dark. These are numbers I invented, that I
flaunt ecstatically in this poem’s unseen space thanks
to a coterie of superstitious non-readers.

Statisticians have terrible poker faces; each
economic lever pulled to swing a graph creates
more something—the action incurs about three seconds
of thought before everyone else wakes to find their life
savings made

                         lesser as a result. Preparation
plus opportunity is called luck (preparation:
that which is left anonymously on white doorsteps
under the cover of night) but luck is also the
illusion of momentum, the self-yoking every
lottery winner inflicts upon themselves.

                                                                We run
but cannot keep up with the selves we see shining in
our future, we are temporarily embarrassed
millionaires1 on a hill that surely eases soon,
four years, two years, not far away now—look, look, look how
the horizon’s ledger’s dipped in gold. The day transacts.
The night

                 blooms at its influence. The most powerful
group in our elections: non-voters. Power transfers
like gravity, we say, we say it will flow—downhill,

ostensibly to us, but look, if you will look, it
seeps into the carpet, it drains, gerrymanders the
fibers of the ceiling tiles and flickers the lights on
12, whose occupants are assured this inconvenience
will be fixed soon. Kink in the system, temporary.

1. language borrowed from John Steinbeck



“If You See Something, Say Something”


            Ec·o·nom·ics (n): The branch of study concerned
                         with the allocation of scarce resources.


            The quality of our thoughts is only as good
                         as the quality of our language.  – Carlin



The housewarming plant snakes
around the stacks of legalese / searching
for the feeding sun, sees / the paperwork
an obstacle / toward its blossom /
harvest / and legacy.



Make a fist around the seed / around
the dirt around the seed it /
feels like someone’s home / humid and earthy
the sweat of your hand / an excuse
to grow



In a world of scarce resources
noise exists as filler, whether air in a tire
or balloons announcing
the arrival of a tiny new gravity

The myth of fullness must be propagated
or else: deflation, supply demands
you buy the instruments that will undo you
and if you can’t afford them
take them, rightfully
yours, possession is



Be fiscally responsible, but keep
the economy moving, funding
the next great Shark Tank idea
if you stop moving you die,
don’t stop to remark on the stopped
body, the flower springing
from the sidewalk / where he took
his last breaths.



Collectives spurn nuance, jagged
edges. If someone else has something,
they shouldn’t. Scarcity
spurns communal, strain
is felt as a pressure lashing up
from the wrist, the seed falling /
ungripped / to wrap a tighter fist.

Anger, pulleys snapped and flailing
around the cathedral of the skull,
an ouroboros engine exhausting
the words entitlements, Obama
phone, handouts, lazy. Any strain
on the system requires the identification
of a force, one that can be seen,
pointed to, collected.

If it can’t be solved it’ll be intimidated.
If it can’t be intimidated it’ll be walled off
or torn down or regulated, quantified,
weighed, measured, valued.



When our aunts and uncles proclaim
the town has “gone downhill” they mean full-
stop there are more minorities. This is known
and yet saying it creates movement. Upon
finally striking out on my own (the term
itself enacting violence on the land, that I may
pierce it, claim it as my own) I was gifted the plant
to liven up the new place / commemorate
my entry / into a world
I’m expected to tend / fertilize / uphold.

There is only so much sunlight, we are told
our solar system’s core is finite, I am told
my boy, take it.



Water and light / the stuff of life

Need and noise, propagating



Self-driving shoes walk me to the department store,
lighting, chiming their heels. I don’t need anything but like to look.



The seed in the wet dirt / in my hand
trembles / I’m tempted to open / to reach
/ to grasp to / make something
/ to have something
my own



Our fathers:
           “When we were your age, we walked uphill
           both ways in the snow to school

            “We paid for college and a mortgage deposit
           with a part-time summer job

            “In our day we grew whole forests
           on our backs”



“This holiday season, shop like our jobs
depend on it!” (They do.)

The American Dream: rain
dissolving rain, the mailman past due.
Neither snow nor acid rain nor
mushroom cloud shall keep the corn
from growing. Production
the culture’s foremost byproduct.



By means of production, we mean reproduce.
Children’s toys made to inure them to labor,
plastic saws, vacuums, dump trucks, cash
registers the feel of a paper currency like heat in the hand,
potential coiled waiting for a rainy day.



Go for a drive, test drive something
to control today. Feel the obedience
at 0% APR for 18 months. Tune
your shower to static, hear better
                        shook from the rhythms
carrying you from screen to screen, bedroom
to living, virtual to actual and the convincing
that happens between the two, that we
enact with every humid breath.



Autocorrect assumed “but” to be a misspelling of “buy.”

The millennial toolset is what washes downstream, what we can use to take apart things that growing up were just the way things were done, “tradition,” but what is tradition anyway, what does it uphold, does it come with qualifiers, why, why sounds like “whine whine” to some, the air being released from a tire, the Dow needing more bodies to push it up the hill



does it not bud or grow us in the shade, does it
look like the same sharp limbs,
splinters being deposited into Facebook comments

does it look like us
writing poems on being upset learning
of our grandparents’ racism

does it counter the culture
and what does that relationship entail, validation
a two-factor authentication method
for mutually assured fist-shaking



I thought / I could afford
an / additional ticket
for the plant but / they made me check it
/ I even promised / I’d secure it / use the buckle
see / the buckle how could that possibly be dangerous

What arrives at the baggage claim—
that which feeds on itself—we finally see
upon arrival—when it’s recalled from the plane’s
subconscious—who knows
what others planted in our belongings
when they were out of sight—how they
might bloom into the lives of others

“if you see something, say

            being noticeable / discrete / definable
            tangible / culpable / plausible
            distinguishable / specific / disparate
            identifiable / probable / knowable
            distinct / explicit / definitive
            perceptible / extant / breathing
            finite / possible / quantifiable
            perceivable / conspicuous / palpable
            reproducible / recognizable / definite
            manifest / particular / visible
            apparent / comprehensible / evident


Photograph of Brandon Amico by Nicole McConville.

Brandon Amico is the author of Disappearing, Inc. (Gold Wake Press, 2019). He is a 2019 National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellow, the recipient of a North Carolina Arts Council Regional Artist Grant, and the winner of Southern Humanities Review’s Hoepfner Literary Award for Poetry. His poems have appeared in The Adroit Journal, the Best American Poetry blog, Blackbird, The Cincinnati Review, Kenyon Review, and New Ohio Review, among other publications. More from this author →