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Brandon Som

Brandon Som is the author of The Tribute Horse (Nightboat Books, 2014), winner of the Nightboat Poetry Prize and the 2015 Kate Tufts Discovery Award. A former Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center fellow, he currently is an assistant profesor in the Literature Department at the University of California in San Diego, where he lives. 

By This Poet



       Ese Louie…
       Chale, call me “Diamonds,” man!
	       —José Montoya

He shined shoes
as a boy for movie money,
& I imagined how

a shinebox might fit
under the theater’s seat
the way it fit decades

later when I saw it
in that dark beneath
my grandparent’s old,

sunken spring-bed.
Later bulldozed,
the Phoenix theater

must have looked
like those pre-war
cinemas mostly lost

now but documented
in the photographs
of Hiroshi Sugimoto

—for which the artist
placed his large-
format camera

in the last rows
of spring-shut seats
below ornate

& baroque sconces
where he then

left the camera’s
aperture open
for a full feature.

It is what we see
of stars—all endings
& untouchable

beginnings: images,
characters, & plot
gone & only white light

left. The cedar box
housing brushes,
rags, & tins of polish

had its hinged latch
& the handle that
also cradled a shoe.

My foot’s never
touched it, but I wonder
which brush inside

might brush back,
against the grain,
one of those photos

to extend the wet
finger of projection
over a boy, who looks

up toward the screen
like he looked
up from a shine.

Or is the figure
to borrow from that
other invention?

Could I carve open
a pinhole in the shinebox
for its storehouse

of inverted images?
—as if revolutions were that
simple an apparatus

of optics to have
the shiner ascend there
to what shines.