“We Grew the Whole Way Up” and other selected poems

by Sophie Brenneman

We Grew The Whole Way Up

We start by picking flowers
carefully apart, offering each other
just the very best—
my back for you to back up to,
your mouth to hold my voice.

Turns out, after all this fuss about beauty,
flowers are just the reproductive organs of a plant,
anatomied in textbooks, next to supine human shapes,
they have ovaries and odor and never smell
not good. I know there’s a joke about sex
living somewhere in these lines.

Every mattress I’ve ever slept on is covered
in some kind of awful flowered pattern,
covered again by softened cotton sheets—
which were once a flowering plant—
two versions of the same thing, pressing
against each other.

You whisper with my voice to me
Everything since the Big Bang
is a different version of the self.
But here we are again, nothing

else than what we are,
we grew the whole way up.
My mother’s mother named her Iris,
she is me when I am you.



I went to bed thinking about constellations, or maybe more
about the dark space between those bodies of light we lump and name–

how they’re born out of perceived proximities & our need
to explain behavior, like your moods and moves towards distance.

When I trace each shape with my finger, I move through millions of miles
in just one instant. With enough distance, I am faster than the speed of light.

Each night I remind myself that stars cannot fit in the palm of my hand
& are not a pet or a god or a house I can build to keep you in or shut you out.

. . .

I woke up thinking about communication, or maybe more
about the white space between these letters we lump and name –

how they’re born out of a perceived proximities & our need
to explain behavior, they can only travel fast if we both say yes to what they mean.

I can say good morning to you in three different languages, but still don’t know how
to tell you this: I only knew I wanted to be alone when you filled this space beside me.

I look at your eyes & think about how stars disappear when I stare directly at them,
I look at these words & think about how they are bodies too, invisible and silent until written here for you to see.


When We Are Maybe The Car Itself

You tell me about state-changers,
mostly tell yourself, as you switch
across lanes without looking.
All this fate is in your knees, I love
your barefoot feet
& I am sure they are not feet
when they move us this fast without trying.
I think your hands are my hands, real and still
themselves. They make a roll-it-up motion at
at my open window, you tell me

feeding oxygen to fats is what makes things rancid.
I don’t know formulas for finding half-lifes
muscle mass, or good moods.
I trust you like you trust
them, trust those blind spot bodies
behind and beside, envy how
everyone who isn’t you and me
knows how to become impermanence.
Just wait until we are all the same again,
go fast grow: up,
                                                      out of,


Running Through Honey in the Dreamworld

I will kiss your teeth clean
while you write dreams on striped floors, I will
wear white socks and wade
knee-deep in black water, I will
pick this river up and watch the water fall right out
with you, I will turn this car around. I will

swallow every swordfish whole &
read futures from the water spots
in drying pots and pans, I will
make up the ending if it isn’t you
so every ending ends
with me saying you. I will

turn the fan on low so when
you ask me in ALL CAPS
rom across this giant bed,
I can tell you this:

We are already running through honey
in the dreamworld— as in,
waking up sleepy, as in, going
nowhere fast, as in, slow
and ready, now please

yawn into my mouth
while I count out minutes
with Mississippis. Thank you
for loving me in such long &
hard-to-spell ways.



There are no
channels on
TV screens anymore,
we’re just watching
sad commercials loop
and holding
our own hands.

We know nothing
is free of meaning
anymore, meaning
we’re just withering

and withouting,
building houses
in our homes.

There are no
outsides in
our daytimes anymore,
we’re just crying
into alphabet soups,
listing regrets in noodle letters.


Sophie Brenneman (b. 1989) is a visual artist and poet living and working in Philadelphia.  She received her MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 2017.  As an identical twin, Sophie uses her visual and written bodies of work as complementary investigations into the physical and psychological implications of twinness—navigating life as both an individual and a pair.  Whether working with pigments and brushes or words and sounds, she enjoys exploring forms and mining meaning from her materials.