Brandon Whitehead’s collection Thieves, Pharaohs & Mexican Daredevils is published by Spartan Press. The title promises a captivating collection and doesn’t disappoint. From historical and biblical figures to current day characters rough around the edges, Whitehead delivers up stories through poetic form along with a twist of humor in some of them that he executes well. I’m happy to share a few below:
When they found them,
a cast hook pulling from the depths
an apparently endless iron chain,
it was just another mystery
to marvel at in an ocean
filled with more than enough.
But still the story spread
from ear to ear,
until finally, an old man
in a dockside bar
with a face more wood than skin
heard the tale
and laughted at the fools
who now call themselves sailors.
How could they understand
what they had found
without knowing why it was
they called that part of the Atlantic
by that old, almost forgotten name?
You see, long ago
filled with soldiers
greedy for the plunder
of the New World,
often found instead
the sickly winds
and Sargasso weeds
of a mariner’s oubliette
a part of the sea that loved
their ships so much it would not let them go.
Finally, near dying of thirst,
they would cast their own stallions
by the hundreds into the sea…
But sometimes, the leather harnesses
and the salt of the sea
might mix in some silent,
and the corpses would rise,
some even centuries afterwards,
still chained in great lines,
floating right near the edge
of the sun-dappled surface…
Imagine that, being some fisherman
or deckhand, and looking into the water
for one single instant to see
the bones of Spanish stallions,
somehow in the currents, moving
for an instant in stunning grace,
as if racing in a last charge,
chained to your brethren,
great manes flying,
hooves thundering as if to turn
the very ocean to earth,
in a race with no finish,
for it circles the very world.
What I love is the legend still coming to life in present day, the stallions rising above tragedy to surface from the waters and surprising the sailors. Just as mermaids are still captivating, the images of Spanish horses capture my attention and imagination which the poet does well in bringing to the surface of the waters.
I, The Vampire, Move to the Suburbs
I rise at sunset from my backyard grave.
a terrifying and monstrous sight,
my great cape flowing in the wind
as I slide like a shadow in the darkness
…only to trip over the barbecue pit.
You see, a castle isn’t exactly cheap,
the upkeep alone was a fortune
and Renfield was a lousy maid.
So, I moved to these residential outskirts,
got a mortgage, a toaster oven,
one of those little Garfield dolls
to stick on the back window of my car.
It’s not such a bad unlife,
except that sometimes, now and then,
I can see myself in the bathroom mirror
and wonder at the change.
What has happened to my sharp nobleman’s face?
Where are my gleaming canines,
my dark Carpathian allure?
What woman will swoon in ultimate orgasmic horror
to a balding middle-aged man
who drives a dented Civic?
How can I rule the countryside
from the back deck of a duplex,
or terrorize the villagers
wearing Dockers and a t-shirt from Target?
Once, I dined with (and on) the finest
of European aristocrats.
Now, I eat Doritos and watch Battlebots
on my 52” TV.
on yet another lonely evening,
I rush as last recourse
into the darkness and tilt back my head
to howl to the wolves,
my children of the night…
…the only reply
a little poodle down the street
who yip-yip-yips all the way to morning.
I absolutely love the sense of humor in the poem. So much so that I insisted my husband read it and he, too, laughed aloud. Not the “lol” but actual laughter. This poem alone makes me thrilled to meet Brandon Whitehead’s work. A humorous twist on a much-copied character, a truly modernized vampire. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
A Lack of Illumination
Why do you have so many
broken flashlights? She asks me,
frowning at the defunct contents
of my junk drawer
in my kitchen without a stove
that I do not cook in,
like my bed that I do not sleep in
or the piles of poems and stories
I’ll never finish.
Immediately, I do not like her anymore.
No one needs to be reminded of failure,
I reply with mantis eyes.
We watch a movie and she leaves.
Afterwards, I wander through the rooms,
standing old toys,
brushing away dust.
I take the darkened lights—
broken bulbs, stripped switches,
and set them up on the roof
in tiny columns,
as their distant cousins
dazzle us all.
This poem employs humor again and the line “Immediately, I do not like her anymore” is funny and relateable. How often have we been criticized by someone we wanted to impress only to fall short and to save ourselves shame we decide not to like them or show interest anymore? Whitehead does a wonderful job telling a short story of a failed date night. The main character takes the offending items and places them out of reach and out of sight, yet not exactly getting rid of them. The items reflecting their potential of the stars above that the main character had such high hopes for, just like his evening with the lady who came to his place for a movie. How do you deal with dashed hopes?
If you enjoyed this sample you may purchase a copy of Thieves, Pharaohs & Mexican Daredevils directly from Brandon Whitehead for $20 (includes shipping and handling) and he will sign it for you. E-mail Brandon Whitehead at firstname.lastname@example.org, he does accept PayPal and you may negotiate other methods of payment. You can also find him on social media such as Facebook. It means a lot to every writer to find out if their work made an impact on them, so never shy away from making those connections.
Thanks always for reading!