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Available in paperback and in e-book

Tea Leaves: a memoir of mothers and daughters by Janet Mason (Bella Books April 2012) is now available -- click here for more info

“There is something here for everyone who has ever loved someone else or plans to. I highly recommend “Tea Leaves” just because it is so real and so beautifully written.”–Reviews by Amos Lassen

check out Janet Mason's author blog

read Janet Mason's latest piece in The Huffington Post --Chick-fil-A: What Would Gandhi Do If He Were Gay? ('s) featured writerToni Brown

Toni Brown -- in memoriam
November 11 1952 - April 19, 2008

Toni Brown Audio Poems --

The Witch -- Toni performs this poem with percussionist Barbara McPherson.
(5.35 MB)
From Toni's reading in Northampton, Mass, 05
Hair Poems --9.35 MB
Clementine Poems -- 7.58 MB
My Father Poems -- 4.99 MB
click here to read commentary on Toni Brown
click here to read more poems by Toni Brown


Toni Brown's poems and stories have been published in journals and anthologies including: Night Bites: Vampire Stories by Women; Night Shade: Gothic Tales by Women, Pillow Talk II, and most recently Fireweed, American Poetry Review, Philadelphia Poets and Prairie Schooner. She was an editor for the Painted Bride Quarterly journal and recipient of a Leeway Foundation Emerging Writers Poetry Grant.


One Day I came home from school
to find my mother
had cleaned my room
She said it was a hell hole

She took down my beloved Huey Newton poster
My California sliding into the sea poster
My magic words and fortune cookie fortunes
She removed the mural I had swirled

green-black and red on a sheet
of plastic and tacked to the wall
She took my stereo and all of my records
She made my bed She hung up my clothes

For two weeks I slept
on top of the bed naked
I disturbed nothing on my bureau
nothing on my bookshelf or bedside table
I wore my uniform to school
at home I wore the same jeans
and tie-dye tee shirt every day


One day I came home from school
my posters were returned
rolled into cylinders neat
rubber banded all in a row on the floor

my sheet of plastic watercolor lay
flat on my still made bed
my records were stacked beside
my returned record player

for two weeks I left everything
exactly where it lay
except the mural I moved it
to the floor at night
I put it back each day


One Day I came home from school
closed my bedroom door
though it was forbidden
I put the posters back on the wall with hammer
and nails I put my mural back on the wall
with epoxy I took off my uniform
balled it up and threw it in a corner
I put on my jeans and tie-dye tee shirt one last time
played Jimi Hendrix' Electric Lady Land LOUD

I burned a stick of sandalwood incense and three candles
As the music played I danced a wild cool jerk, boogaloo
pulled open the junk drawer in my bureau
I spun in the smoke and Jimi's song spewing
the contents of the drawer around like
chicken blood

Toni Brown (right) and Anita Cornewell--click here for Anita


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I would like to say that I knew you were coming
I would like to say that I knew up front that night was going
to be different
That I knew and chose everything I did because I knew
But I didn't

I was 18 and my cousin Suzy was visiting
She was from Philly and used to music
dancing and all manner of entertainments
here I was out of college for the summer
living in the suburbs with my parents.
with nothing to do
but watch television
the center of town too far to walk
too many white people
And then your father called- well he wasn't your father yet

Your father called and he said, "There's a party...
...why don't you come?" I said, "Well, I have my
cousin Suzy here with me." He said, "Bring her along, it'll be fine. It'll give us a chance to talk, get together since we haven't been together since we left school."
When he said, "together" I knew he meant together and I
worried about Suzy being with me, but
I wanted to get out
I wanted to give Suzy something else to do
and so it was on
we were going

The car was sick
when ever you stopped or slowed down
Its green dashboard lights would flicker
the engine would cough, blue smoke would belch out
from the exhaust pipe and it would shudder
If you didn't balance your foot just right on the gas pedal
in the middle of that shudder it would die
you would be stuck until
someone came along with magic jumper cables
sent a spark into the car
that got it going again

We didn't care about that, Suzy and I
all we cared about was the humid August night
and how far we had to drive to get the smell of home
out of our clothes.
The promise was to see your father, though he wasn't
your father yet
so we went into the thick night air

Suzy and I got a little lost in a dark industrial park
after driving off the highway at the wrong exit
we slowed down to read a sign and the car began to cough
our eyes opened wide as we petitioned heaven
through a windshield dotted with mosquito remains
the car shuddered as we prayed aloud,
"Please God, please, please don't turn the car off. Oh
please not now, please, please don't please..."
I pushed the gas pedal just right and the shuddering stopped
we zoooomed away. A small puff of smoke left behind us.

We got to the party in another New England suburb
it was just as I feared
blank white faces
momentary smiles
bodies bobbing to an unperceptible beat

Suzy and me and the boy not yet your father
stood in a small circle pretending
to make conversation until it was time
to go
Suzy and I followed the red burning cigarrette lights
of his car to his parent's home

Suzy stayed downstairs
while I followed him up to his childhood bed
we removed our clothes
slid between the sheets as if into a pond
two fish together
sliding against each other
inside outside I could feel him

Despite whispered warnings
of cousins who could not hide
their baby swollen bellies
or the possibility of Suzy hearing
the bounce and wheeze of the bed springs
I wanted to feel him.
Like that freight train in all those movies, charging
toward that tunnel. Sailing along full throttle then
hussssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss of released steam.

I would be back downstairs
where Suzy waited in the dark, but
There was somthing different about this-
I could feel the heat of him spreading inside me
The air crackled with the threat of thunder
There were no cricket or peeper sounds
just the creak of the bed
Your father's breathing my breathing

Afterward Suzy and I drove home
The car gave us no trouble
a part of me held a conversation with Suzy about
how sorry I was to leave her downstairs alone
how sorry I was that the party had been soooo sorry
how happy we were to get out of the house at all
Maybe next year I could come to Philly?

Another part of me was with you
Hunkered down watching your universe beginning
I knew you were there I knew you were there
I welcomed you into my self
welcomed you becoming
I was 18 and this had been my last night as a child

©Toni Brown 2001