Editor’s Note: R Brown was a finalist for the 2019 Boston Review Annual Poetry Contest. For best viewing, it is recommended that these be read on a desktop or laptop with the browser window maximized.


when i was young my brothers told me a story that went like this:


there is a mountain the mountain is safe the mountain is not here

the mountain is the opposite of here the mountain is everywhere

that is not here if you make it to the mountain

if you make it to the mountain


i imagined it a mountain castle in the sky a place where

i was alone and protected where i could see the whole world

stretched out around me





i am afraid of becoming a mountain


let me rephrase:


i spent two years memorizing every possible cloud

that can float in between your house and mine


i mean, you say mountain

and it is the after that i am afraid of


you say mountain and it is like if i spend five years

learning to sing everything in the key of e


and then you tell me to sing in the key of a

i think i would still sing in the key of e sometimes accidentally


i have so many things to tell you

i am busy busy busy


making lists and lists and lists

and meanwhile you seem not to notice


that they tore down the library

on williamson ave


i mean, the thing about mountains is tunnels

(see list 15a: irrational fears; nightmares; age 23)


i have nothing else to say about tunnels

but i think we should stay here a minute longer


i would invite you to come sit on the couch

but i’m afraid that might be too forward


(see list 37c: appropriate/inappropriate behaviors;

correct social protocols; reset factory settings)


so mountains. i am trying to think of the strongest thing i know

and i am still stuck on decay


i mean, did you know that your teeth will start to rot in your mouth

after three months even while you are still alive? i mean


i think about that a lot i mean, the lake

i mean, i told myself after the mountain i wouldn’t be sad anymore i mean,


i am still looking for the mountain




i think you saw the mountain before i even thought it


through all yr vile you thought you saw my future

you said i would never leave and now i never stop leaving it all


or did it make you happy the way we killed

each other or tried to, slashing wildly at everything we loved


maybe when you said mountain, you meant i will teach you how to fight


do i owe you something for that?




everytime i said flying what i meant was one day i will be dead


i was looking for the mountain so i buried myself

it made sense at the time


or seemed to still high

or coming down or lowlowlow


i mean, i know how to get real low

i watch all the boys get buried i want


to be my mother’s only son

i am not proud of this:


days i thought gone

pop gets so nervous at the same time every year


i call pop says, you don’t say flying so much any more

pop says, it’s never too late to come home


and sometimes i do

every single dead boy and me


when i say i don’t want to talk about the mountain

i mean this the buried days the buried self


the me that did the burying




you left and i became all fog


all the edges blurring i try to hold my body together but it fills up the whole room it is something i cannot hold onto my molecules get further and further apart i go through my day like normal but it is much more difficult with a fog body i cannot hold anything and nothing can hold onto me i float here and there the bank down main street the dog groomers the fire station i see the boys floating with me and away from me i want to stay my body my body wants to float away the mountain my mother says you must get to the mountain











one day i wake up and realize i am becoming my boy my boy who is dead








i think maybe there was this dream a dream i remember or don’t remember a dream in which i was wandering through a field of flowerfaces and i find my boy’s face i pick up my boy’s face and all the other faces disappear i love my boy i love my boy i love my boy ’s face and his hands and his body his face is something gummy or clammy or not possibly real i turn it over and over in my hands lightly sticky some parts still pink others draining greywhite pockmarked and freckled stubble and clumps and wisps of hair i love every part of it i press his face up against my face cool and damp it is a face that is not my face until suddenly it is i touch my face and it feels like my face and it looks like my face and it is my face but it isn’t it is my boy’s face and i know it is my boy’s face and i think i should be sorry for this or worried but i’m not i think maybe this is just my face now







this is how i explain it, months later, when i wake up and realize i am becoming my boy it must be because i am wearing his face the things that i love that he loved are things that i love because i am wearing his face the tv shows and cookies and BBQ chicken and sweaters with patches and Judith Butler and i fall in love with a boy like the boy my boy loved and we build a house for ourselves in a forest i build a whole new life for myself without my boy a life my boy will never see







my brothers say only the mountain can be a mountain

my brothers say a mountain is what you will never be


find the mountain the river tells me


my mother says to let it go

to mourn and stop mourning


don’t be a dead boy says the voice beneath her voice








my mother says don’t you think having a fog body is very inconvenient?

have you tried not having a fog body? are you working too much? are you getting enough sleep? eating enough fruits and veggies? are you going to church???? are you praying?????? what are we going to do??????????








i float in the in-between the mountain i think it and it becomes a word fully formed hanging in the air alongside me the mountain my mother says maybe the mountain will know what to do


RBrown lives and writes in Youngstown, Ohio. Recent or upcoming work can be found in Apogee, VIDA Review, Cosmonauts Avenue, and elsewhere. They are the author of the microchapbook Dear John, Love Letters to John Connor… (Ghost City Press, 2018). You can find them on Twitter, @notalake.