Jason Lee Brown, '00

Since graduating in December of 2000, Jason Lee Brown has been an editor for The News Progress in Sullivan, IL and a busy writer of poetry, prose, and screenplays. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in VietNow National Magazine, The Pacific Review, RiverSedge, Zuzu’s Petals Quarterly, Main Street Rag, and others.


Curt Jones's Father

Curt Jones’s Father

Curt Jones swung at the first pitch
leading off, down one run
in the bottom of the ninth
with the bases loaded,
and his dad beat his ass
in the parking lot afterwards—
for that and smarting off.
Damn, I’m lucky,
I thought, leaving the dugout,
my father didn’t even show.

Dad’s Chores

Feeding the horses
with full buckets of grain
between the electric fence
he threw his back out
hurt, he raised up
grasped his tailbone
groaned oh, shit
then scratched his beard
Well, help me, damn it.

I piggybacked him
toward the back door
bearing his weight
dutiful knees - a wobbling
under that musty flannel
and black and blue collar
his breath and whiskers
scratching and tickling
the back of my neck.

Goosebumps and my legs
the men of the house.

Tavern Window

My father told me he didn’t

understand my first poem.
It was about him after all
about the time I saw him kissing
another lady through
the tavern’s window
just off the town square.
I cried. Nothing hard
to understand about it.
It was a good poem.




At the Stop Sign


our days before entering McCracken and Son’s as a pallbearer for the funeral, I saw my father in his F150 pickup, slowing down on Highway 51 for the stop sign that allowed entrance to my hometown of Pana, Illinois. I was headed towards our farmhouse. He turned on his right blinker and stopped his gray truck at the sign. I drove by and waved. I knew he wouldn’t turn left and follow me home. If there is one word that describes my father, it’s routine, and Routine doesn’t go directly home after work. Ever since Grandpa retired from the railroad, over fifteen years ago, my father has stopped at that sign and headed for Grandpa’s house for coffee. I turned my car around and followed.

Inside the house, Grandpa was sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee, reading. He didn’t even look up from the newspaper when we came in. My father, who still worked at the railroad, walked to the counter and poured the bottom of the pot into a cup. Grandpa always had a cup waiting for him. Dad was wearing his normal—work boots, blue jeans, and flannel. That day’s flannel was blue, with a stiff and faded collar. And, as always, he wore his pliers in the holder that hooked onto his belt. He joined my grandfather at the table. They shared the paper and drank coffee without saying more than a handful of words. These visits weren’t about talking or catching up on news. They were about a son visiting his father. I never joined them at the table.

Grandpa was also wearing his normal—tan slacks with a plain white T-shirt. The shirts were always tight on his trim, fit body. He mumbled something to my father about Harry Carey’s death as I opened the refrigerator and grabbed a pop. I leaned against the counter and thought how simple my life would be if I could be more like them. I wished I could be more concrete, never missing a hard day’s work and sticking to a routine, but I’m not.

Two days later, grandpa died of a stroke. At the visitation I couldn’t stop staring into his casket. They had him dressed in a maroon suit, and I was pissed because he wasn’t wearing his slacks and white T-shirt. Why maroon? He never wore maroon. The more I thought about it the more I knew that I would no longer remember him wearing slacks and a shirt, only that damn suit. I touched his hands folded over his chest. They were cold like an uncooked steak. His cheeks too. I gently squeezed his earlobe and he turned into my father.

I wasn’t sad about my grandpa’s death. He was 81 years old and had many friends and siblings, and as far as I could tell, he worked hard and respected people, and people respected him. I was sad because I had never seen my father take anything so hard. I was sure he had cried around me before, but I couldn’t recall it. He was wearing new jeans, a dress-up flannel, and, of course, his pliers. I wrapped my arms around him from behind and squeezed. He patted my shoulder as if he were patting himself on the back.

After the visitation, we grandsons slid the casket into the hearse, then slid it out at the cemetery. We place it in the grave as if we were just moving furniture around. During the twenty-one gun salute, all I could think about was how my father was going to feel at the stop sign on Highway 51 the first day he had to drive home from work.

Field Jacket


t was 1980 and I was going into the seventh grade, ten years after my father’s enlistment, and I just wanted to wear his camouflaged field jacket to one party, just one, at Coulter’s house. I didn’t understand the big deal. He hardly ever wore it.

“Come on, please.”


“It looks cool on me, dad.”

“Don’t care.”


“That jacket…,” he stopped. He knew better to waste that speech on an eleven-year-old.

I shut my mouth and splashed an excessive amount of Stetson on my neck and peacock chest. My father watched from the kitchen table. He must have been thinking of seventh grade.

“Mary gonna be there?” he said.


Before I left the house, my father winced as he handed me the field jacket, then again when I slipped it on.

“Don’t lose it.”

“I won’t.”

“It better work.”

It did. I marched into Coulter’s party like the jacket was bulletproof. With my father’s name stitched across my right breast, I strutted straight to the girls’ side of the room. Mary took notice.

“My dad used to keep a picture of me right here,” I said. I pulled an imaginary photograph out of the breast pocket and offered it to her. She laughed at me, took my hand, and led us into the basement where we kissed for five minutes, three times.

Saturday Morning Cartoons


’d sleep, sprawled the length of the couch, enjoying the down time before the real hangover began. His right arm draped over his face, veiling the whiskey breath and black pitted eye sockets, and occasionally, his snoring would turn into whimpers and twitches, then back to normal. I’d tickle his armpit. He’d stop. I’d tickle again. He’d jerk. Again, and he’d snort.

I always thought my father was a comical bear after hibernation when he awoke. But he was still a bear and quite dangerous. Once, a knuckle and ring backhanded the side of my head, though I quickly learned to move--and other little tricks. But the fact remained, nobody can watch Saturday morning cartoons with him snoring.

I’d tickle, then sit next to him watching Yogi, as if noting happened. I’d tickle and tickle, until he’d stretch and growl to focus his sensors, then crawl upstairs to bed.

Then I’d sprawl out on the couch and watch cartoons and eat Captain Crunch too fast until the roof of my mouth became raw and my stomach ached.



Agora gratefully acknowledges the following sources: Taint Magazine for "Tavern Window"; Small Spiral Notebook for "Curt Jones's Father"; Snow Monkey for "Saturday Morning Cartoons"; Zuzu's Petals Quarterly for "Dad's Chores"; and VietNow National Magazine for "Field Jacket."