In reading contemporary poetry, it is rare to be spellbound by a complete, sweeping narrative containing fully formed characters, their clashing and collaborative motivations, and the central mythology that weaves through the story.

Full disclosure: I do not go to poetry first when I need my fix of escapism into other worlds with imaginative social structures, a touch of magic, and rambunctious characters whose morality isn’t defined in black and white. Such complexities and nuances exist (and are often told more successfully) in other media: video games, comic books, fantasy/science-fiction novels, anime, and more.

Uniquely, yet unsurprisingly, Clifford Brooks manages to tell the fantastical tale of Cowboy Blue Crawford in poetical form, utilizing rhythm and lyricism to describe story elements that are at once immersive and transportive: “Blue thumbed the thaloc’s jewel in his chest. The scarred flesh . . .” We, as the audience, are taken away by dark imagery, encounters manipulated by modern-day mages, and an eerie sense that some huge battle or some unseen beast is on the verge of swallowing whole everything Blue fights for.

Following Blue Crawford is like firing up the PlayStation to sink in the world of Red Dead Redemption. Or cracking open the pages of Gene Wolfe’s “The Book of the New Sun” and being terrified of sorcerers and torturers. Or even absorbing the simple yet earth-shattering philosophies sprinkled in Viktor E. Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning.” What is Blue’s meaning? What informs his decisions? What will be the consequences of his actions, and how will they affect everyone around him?

How will the gods seek retribution?

I look forward to exploring Blue’s story in full, totally immersed. Transported.

Alia Hussain Vancrown


Rice Lacroix and Blue Crawford: Their Crews Lay Waste to the Night


“This gets bad, Blue.” Rice’s smile slices his face open.

Blue leans against a wall, looks across the narrow street at Rice.

Their crews watch with an itch to pounce. People walk between them. An hour past sunset, spring rain leaves the air heavy. Tourists try to look native and the natives try to look appealing to tourists. Locked on from dark windows both Rice and Blue wear a sniper’s red dot.

A need to rip and shoot and cut and tear – shared by Rice and Blue. This isn’t the first or the centennial occasion this fight goes down on this street; a piss of a street with no noble name or rich history.

Blue thumbs the thaloc’s jewel in his chest. The scarred flesh cauterized around that green surface seeps. That’s new. His temper harder to tame.

But there are kids holding hands with parents. Young couples flirt. Old drunks get their beaks wet. It’s too early to kill so many.

This is the place.
This is not the time.
“Don’t wander off, Rice.” Blue says, raising his chin, walking away with Father Hammer.

New Orleans opens its maw.
Rice attacks,
bullet holes, brass knuckles, the fires –
it pleases the dark choir.
Rice, Kabal, Miss Dixie, and Mabel
howling, disemboweling
the Army Reserve.

Blue doesn’t suffer aloud.
There are barbs between his bones.
A bullet lodged in his leg,
few knew Blue
before he became

Rice cuts open
the waifs, the wastrels, and wasted.
If lanced deep enough the stuff
of their breakage, their loss,
is eternal life.
Pariah perpetuated
by murder.

“If they all die I won’t cry!”
Rice wears the headdress of Anubis.
He punches through a policeman,
against the skull
of a waitress, puts railroad spikes
into a school bus.

Blue picks up pliers and retires
the use of Kabal’s right eye.
“It will never end, Blue!”
Kabal stumbles over
a golem. An ancient corpse
Father Hammer showered
to death
with brimstone.

A cyclops now
with ripped ribs,
exposed, brutal.
New Orleans is on fire.

“You’ll die bad!” Mabel
cackles, cocks the shot
gun again
the cab driver dies.
Lily is right behind her.
Hunting her.
Mabel too unstable to know it.

 “Father Hammer!” Kabal
fires four rounds of demon teeth
fired into Hammer’s chest.

Father Hammer, the-way-it-once-was.
Today he is a lack of definition.
He cannot see Blue.
Blue cannot find him,
“Hammer!? C’mon man!

Blue’s furious movements,

Miss Dixie didn’t struggle,
“He’ll murder
you for killing me.”
Sword & Shadow sets his
blade against
her throat.
“None of us walk away.”

It sounds final
and complete.

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