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five poems

brett a. maddux is a poet from hartford & the creator of the instagram series @dinersofconnecticut. his first collection of poems, regent (Silk House Publishing,) was released in 2016. regent was written in diners, in conversations with friends about love & death & happiness & sadness & fear & joy & sex & religion & loneliness & attention & art, in the year after his mother died. here are five poems from his latest release blackbird, 4pm, a book of poems which can be purchased at

Written & Photographed by
brett a. maddux

retail, 8am

new fear tuesday morning miracle calling in my bets on all the horses never placed & I am due a minor fortune to carry me back through the streets of my childhood babysitter crippled middle school librarian yellow hardcover first nipple I ever saw mormon grocers elegant nurses putting their fingers in my third grade asshole a man once said I'd never amount to anything more than my mother grinding her teeth away every night hospital visitations miniature smiles & if I ever make it out of this town alive long odds two bits on the smallest colt

​ if not all the way

at least half

what comes next

is anticlimax

the god of

meager losses

the last photograph

remaining of eyes

early morning


cigarette lips

in winter hair

still messy

from sex

under blankets

bloody knee

concrete congregation

if it ain't holy

at least it's painful

& they don't say

it that way

now do they

they don't pray

for arthritic housemaids

low wage department store

cash register clerks

taking the piss

out of mega church

pastor porcelain

coupons housewives

can I talk to

your manager

her heart still

beating beneath

her apron

hi my name is


can I

help you

yes mother

I still

love you

what comes next

is revelation




wrist brace

back ache medication

some paul harvey


on your childhood

radio station

every song

sounds like


that is her


in the cobwebs

that is her


in the attic

those are her

teeth turned

into dust

that is her


that calls

the cat in

lungs, 11am

​so much harder

to look it

in the eye

when it is smiling

back patting good old boys

bellies bleeding battery acid

to take the bark off trees

so much harder

to say sorry

if you never

really mean it

online shopping sibling coffins

a good deal if you can get it

free shipping lungs filling

I hear misery

don't come


so much


to drink

my sister's


when she dies


& preventably


keep the noise down

daddy is watching

his shows

in this one

all my devils

dress business casual

shake hands

with wise men

& naked angels

in this one

mother draws a bath

& I wash her hair

while she opens

her veins

in lukewarm water

in this one

I tell you my name

but you do not hear it

in this one

I have coins enough

to pay off

those barking dogs

bounty what my soul

is worth bound to

drain her bathwater

drown me if I

get too close

a river where

the light flows


toward the scent

of something


& there is no night

I have found

where there are not

bones to

outlive me

gently worn away

by coursing water

& when there is

no blood left

somewhere tender

let her body lick

my lungs clean

& I will be


let the dogs have

my soul

& I will be


let my mother know

I am sorry

& I will be


indifference, 9pm


the good old days

opulence poverty

tolerance bigotry

decadence misery

black white brown

gay straight queer

they them he she

maybe you should

buy a new car

maybe then you'll be happy

a lack of empathy

a dog you bury in the backyard

a coworker you tell about your sex life

a desire to ignore consequence

a peak over the fence

to see what they have

& ain't it pretty

& ain't they perfect

& maybe someday

you'll be

happy too

a kiss on the cheek

a quiet glance over dinner

why won't they just be quiet

the good old days

back when everything was better

before they started paying attention

a bus that takes you halfway home

a car that parks in the middle of the street

a man who says he loves you but doesn't mean it

a daughter who is already smarter than her father

portraits of the artists as young men

in a country that does not want them

to become old men unless they

stay quiet follow directions easy does it

the news at 11 let's hear from both sides

the working class want jobs

the working class want their kids to go to college

the working class want warfare in the streets

the working class want safe neighborhoods

where the cops only kill people

who don't look like them

drugs are bad or

prescriptions are good or

my daughter died of an overdose or

my son is a doctor or

my mother manic west 5th

christmas presents in july or

my father's cough drop

drunken elevator conversation

did you see the game or

etc. etc.

they get

what they


fiends discreet charm of the bourgeoisie

after these messages from coca cola

I was born

in a house

built on


four walls

one roof

two people

no love

indifference to a truth

so loud you can barely hear it

yes that is your blood moving

no your child won't make it out alive

the good old days

indifference to a lie

so quiet you cannot ignore it

remember how pies cooled

on summer windowsills

& the milkman knew

your first name but still

called you ma'am

such a polite boy

those were the good old days

& your daughter died

in an alleyway

because the doctor knew

her first name

& what would the neighbors think

& oh how those birds clack

their beaks & the pastor

says a special prayer

for wayward sheep

for aborted grandchildren

for loosened altar boy belt buckles

& there are holy things

on this earth

& oh how the lord god

tends his flock

& oh weren't those

the good old days

god, 5am

​god up to no good

floating on

forgiveness like

some book she read

& if any arms

are chariot

go tell this one

on the mountain

there are queens

to make


of men


every soul


to make any flesh





& when god

came to town

she wore

her winter coat

& when god's hands

grew cold

she buried them

in mittens

​& when god

finally made the sound

of marie's harp

sing so tender

& falling

off the bone

every night ends

just like this

like ambrosia

on your lips

something holy

why do they say


every light crawls

through winter's shade

& your cigarettes


like grandma smelled

ha ha

& all that emptiness

& all those black birds

& they call this morning

ha ha ha

oh god give me

a tree until you

fill my cup

& I was not baptized in the sink

& I did not eat the bread you left for me

& where is that forgiveness I have begged for

& why is god's blood

so full

of light

& why don't angels sound

like I thought they would

& please

do not



in darkest alleyway

traffic with

your brother

to be given


so loud

bring the birds high

bring the sky low

let the trees sing

bring the strings in

glory glory hallelujah

oh lord

come to carry

me home

& why is god's cat

still laughing

so feral

so crawling

so alone

to die in hartford is to live in pretty whiskey, on pete's vacant balcony in a sunshine that is clean. to die as arches ring you through in candlelight, the women you love always running fifteen minutes late ​& you​ don't mind. a man you have never been, a mercy you will never earn, ​& ​the laundromat ​never closes​ ​& the bodega always carries your cigarettes ​& ​​her last ​dress ​is still ​ wrinkled ​on the stoop. to die in hartford is to fall in love and really mean it: answers to the question, time in the body collected, to need touch so desperately you can taste it on your lips come morning. sage of the little river, safe in tender kisses, it seems the city knows we are not meant to be alone.

someday sound ​someday sound for someday sound for the sake of sound for ​the ​sake of sound will be enough, our bodies ten years older,

our couch a decade softer, from the kitchen you tell me ​how your day was​, voice echoing down the corridor, days echoing days before. a larger truth unrealized, some harder fruit near clementines, the pear that is somehow always in your hand. let me be smoke break conversations until I am grocery aisle smiles, ​my ​love I swear back then I was not quite myself. a list of all your favorite novels, a quiet terror, a mercy constant, ​your ​slender cheeks warmed by summer, the face you make when you are angry. I still remember. am I still tender, known as early morning splendor, some childhood memory that blends in with your dreams. ​the man I ​claim I​'ll ​be when I grow up: the ​one to make you sunday breakfast, all your dead dogs resurrected, our bodies dancing in the night sweat. when I run out of clean ​movement ​please ​hold my hand, I'll start the kettle if it snows. for you I'll give up smoking, grow a belly, sweep the kitchen while you are sleeping, I know it isn't easy ​& I know it shouldn't be. for you I'll give up

all my wandering, bathe more often, brew the coffee. scratch your back when you've awoken from bad dreams.

to die in hartford is to at last find the front yard grown with tall grass, the raptured scent ​of ​your morning breath still rattling my chest. it will go on like this forever. to live in hartford, a half-earned blessing, I promise I am glowing so close to the light. goodnight to a city baptized and forgiven, ​goodnight to blackbirds from the window in my kitchen, goodnight to any place that isn't here, goodnight my love your streets still echo & call that memory & call that what it really is & call my father when its over & tell him I died doing what I loved & tell him I loved hartford

while I had the chance & tell him the sound he hears each morning is the blackbirds singing me home. last night​ in bed beside you I heard the first song we ever danced to​ I heard my last breath wear your glasses I heard the night fall something classic ​& I swore you heard it too. a sound just like your old piano, a god for all your childhood animals, a way of giving up on all we've left behind. your heart, it shines me all my mercies, lights my way to draw the curtains, I​ ​heard the ​sound

for the sake of

sound for the

sake of home still rhymes with your flesh. I heard your bones still pink & glowing ​beneath our bed.​ I am sorry for the man I claim to be in poetry

but for you I swear I'll publish, quake my dust off, cut the bullshit, I promise someday I will make you proud of me. singing hymns against your new skin, window dint of bedroom movement, if you will let me be forgiven I'll bring oranges to the kitchen, I hope I die before ​you find ​out who I am​. only one truth left to offer, praise it how they told me not to, cigarette with morning coffee, I have seen the holy places in the sun. if we've only got ​one life here it is not time enough for your company, please slow me down to squeeze the last drop from your rind. oh hartford, did you miss me? did you find me where you left me? oh hartford can't you see I ​missed you too? I swear to ​speak more if you'll ​hear me, ​to sleep more when I'm weary, to sing your name into the evening, to not say iowa each time the hurt is new.

I swear to god someday I'll love you, I promise I won't be afraid to. I'd wait forever just so I could tell you so.

Follow brett a. maddux on instagram @brettmaddux and his time spent in diners throughout Connecticut @dinersofconnecticut.
blackbird, 4pm can be purchased at
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