kaleb (worst) - Median

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kaleb (worst) - Median
“ The sun has a gun and will murder me,
but it does not know that I too have a sun,
rising and diving daily within me.”
kale b (worst)
US $8.00
kaleb (worst)
writes poetry with tenacity and
an honest voice, luring you with an earnest playfulness found previously in puppies. These poems
are fresh and durable, delighting readers in their
exploration of the places (worst) wanders in his
mind. He has an eagerness to bring you along on
his just-starting journey, pulling you through the
shrubbery, stopping at the edge of Fairyland—
where no one claims innocence—and leading you
to a place of fantastic possibility: the beginning.
Bad Poetry
“As the wind wraps about my arms nicking my cheeks
I feel nothing short of the lights that surround me”
I
I
“ I am a gliding confessional
that would never spill a drink.”
kaleb (worst)
bAd poetry
bad
poetry
by kaleb (worst)
Wilde Press | Boston
Copyright © Kaleb Worst 2012
All proceeds from this book go to the American Red Cross
Cover illustrations © Talia Rochmann 2012
Paper texture courtesy of Chris Spooner
Interior Design by Liza Cortright
Printed by: Harvard Bookstore, Cambridge MA
Fonts used are Spectrum MT, SF Scribbled Sans, and vtks study
For those who, by choice or through force, remain silent.
Notes on Bad Poetry:
First, I congratulate you for picking up this book. You have a bravery
for trusting in the bad. I had worried, and not needlessly, that the title
of this book would turn away many lovers of poetry. I was concerned for
those who judge books solely by their covers. If they have, it matters not:
You have arrived.
As for the title, it’s not meant to be ironic or adversarial. It’s only
a little dishonest, as I very much value the poems in this book. When
I mention offhandedly that I write bad poetry, it’s not a dig at my ability. It’s a reflection of what I believe to be reality. The most gifted poets
have always placed their fondness in poems that, in due course of time,
are dwarfed by masterpieces. I’ve learned myself that every time I make
something I feel is good, it only takes a couple weeks for the fuzz of excitement to fade, and I see it clearly for what it is—just another poor
execution of my perfect mind.
I believe, within the limits of what I know, that everyone is capable
of writing poetry, just as everybody can dance with joy and sing alone
in their car. At all hours of the day, we manufacture thoughts, turn
over images, wrestle with questions and unearth our emotions in great
quakes. Each person is primed by their own nature to write the greatest
poem on earth. What scares them away is that they will undoubtedly fail.
They do not think they can write good poetry. Neither do I.
Because what is good poetry? I don’t know what it looks like. There
is poetry that I love, and poetry that I don’t. But thankfully every poem
is loved. Sometimes forgotten, often hidden in notebooks or tucked between rarely visited web pages, but loved at least by the poet. By the end
of day, it does not matter whether a poem is bad or good. It is always a
success.
So you see why it doesn’t bother me to embrace Bad Poetry as the title
of my first book. I could have called it Good Poetry, and I would feel no
differently. But I haven’t tried to write good poetry for a while now. I am
only telling you how I feel and what I see. I am still learning how to do
that. Yet no matter how much I concentrate on my aim, I always miss the
mark. In this there is always a benefit: that no matter where the poem
lands, it is still mine, as it first landed in my heart.
Yours,
kaleb (worst)
Table of Contents
i. Coniferous
Dear Reader
Get Up, You’re Going to Disneyland
The Last Cup of Tea
Graveyard Shift
the longer that I stay in bed
The Crimson Top
Nana
Papa
So This is the Night
Chandelier Skies
learning to deal #5
Melting Pot
This Too Was Once a Valentine
The Sendoff
Calm Keeping Lights at Middlebrook
too late
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
ii. All Is Balanced & Fair In Fairyland
bad poem
help i hurt myself for sport and now i sport no more
Journalist Mike
asbestos
Free Stress Test
Quit Playing Call of Duty, Quit Wasting your Stupid Life!
Prayer to Ra
poetry meeting
20
21
23
25
26
28
30
31
Table of Contents
ii. (continued)
33
34
36
37
42
43
45
48
Kyle Died Twice When He Ate Peanut Butter On An Egg
would you always blame the dead
What is Calcium?
The Privileged Many and the Nameless Few
party in the name of the lord
That’s It I Surrender
Bleed Loudly, Be Heard
Trust Me You Will Watch Them Fall
iii. Exordium: The Beginning of Anything
52
54
55
56
57
58
59
62
64
65
66
67
68
70
72
73
Where the World Quickly Ends
Storyteller
Good Tidings of Great Joy
Flame
peonies in the shower
How to Get Into Heaven
Rail 135, Rail Away
Time Isn’t Mine
Palette
Sublime
dawn en route
God
For Daze
Song of Myself
May Sunset
Best Wishes
i.
Coni ferous
I pulled out a fistful of pines
and gargled some green air,
finding ways to pass the time
as nothing changed around me.
Dear Reader
We are a rare kind of soap opera
that airs only at night— every night
we are the bells ripped by the wind.
You are the root of my brambles.
A sprinkler for the thirsty wanderer.
Reader, my mobile, patiently spinning.
I live on bacon, coffee, and cigarettes
but don’t say good-bye
because I live mostly for myself,
my self and all its bounties belong to you.
If I catch you reading other poems
let’s not be awkward or imaginary.
I could look the other way;
find another page to itch and animate.
I am a carpenter without miracles.
I am sure that sometimes
we stare at the same star unknowingly.
2
Get Up, You’re Going to Disneyland
So there I was,
rearranging the pillows,
when suddenly the door
swung open and let in a light.
I closed my eyes, said Get out,
I’ve had enough of this peer pressure.
I’m not going to Disneyland. Neither
force nor fauna will move me: I am fixed.
But the earth was whirling beneath me
as I opened my eyes to discover
that I was twirling in a cup of tea,
buoyant with sugar and strawberries,
and when the light snuck back
to the place it came, the fireworks
were seminal, smile inevitable.
3
The Last Cup of Tea
Minced leaves in a pouch
are for grown-ups.
Guess I’m one of them,
soon to be stuffed
with transparent tubes
and pills the size of walnuts.
Ever played chess on the moon?
It’s good distraction, requiring
strategy, some stamina,
and very heavy kings and queens.
I would rather pour myself into that.
Yet I sit pouring tea into my cup,
the paper laid to rest across my lap.
4
Graveyard Shift
I dug a trough with your bottom lip
and made a dirty cradle out of it.
Spread a minty balm over your white
thighs, and there I spent the night.
Tucked and tangled in the willow,
I taunted rest and rest did not follow.
The orchid sky and grenadier grapes
were too bright and loud for any escape.
Though if someone handed me a sphere of sleep,
swirling with ebony and death-white sheep,
I would spread it like ashes to the yawning sea.
The dark is too big, and stillness is misery.
5
the longer that I stay in bed
the world retreats into my head
the longer that I stay in bed
I say Go away, no room for you,
don’t you have worldly things to do?
the world says Boy! the time is soon
when daylight washes down the moon
I say O.K. and read a book
though I cannot see I sweep to look
for a way to start the night anew
or, maybe, something worldly to do
6
The Crimson Top
The crimson top spins no more.
It has sputtered out,
and cracks at the touch of a finger.
Once it spun on the daily,
whirling incessantly,
spraying loose a rain of rubies.
It is poorly guarded.
The bones that grow old to guard it
ache only for the briefest massage.
Either a storm or some battle horn
will eventually snap its prison,
and they’ll muscle through the walls,
ripping the top from its cradle—
and they’ll behold it
and they’ll poke it
and they’ll shake it
and they’ll break it.
Lazy architect, they’ll mutter,
and go ravaging for another.
Oh, but if only they were you.
The top only spins
when you want it to.
7
Nana
Nana tells me not to sag my pants
because I don’t want to get raped
but I still eat her French toast
and wear her sweaters when it’s cold.
8
Papa
Papa used to squeeze the life out of me
although he never noticed how badly
his alarm clock kept me up at night,
and when he sings in church I hear him.
9
So This is the Night
In my dull-headed
attempt to exempt myself
from the depths of consciousness,
I have—for a monotonous
month of straddling
the marathon carousel,
grasping at banana green buds
that could only be seen
through a plastic microscope,
and wading throat-deep through
the garbled sounds of gardening—
clearly forgotten that
this is the night,
where my only saving grace
is that my silhouette
cannot be traced.
10
Chandelier Skies
Floodlights fill up the street,
the rain now visible as a gash
is visible on a clear complexion.
Little freckles descend into pools.
A worm burrows deeper into
its sheets of dirt, unaffected.
Likewise I light a cigarette
and stand on the cleared-out
patio, making muddied notes.
A droplet clings to the end of
my hair, a pendant hanging
off a furious bushel of hay.
I tried suspending it, making
it last, tethering me to the
downpour, but the magic of it
left, failing to catch it as it falls.
11
learning to deal #5
went to the boxing match today
forever vs. some kinda truth
I woulda bet
but someone slipped their hand
into my pocket
and now I’ve got nothing
for betting
12
Melting Pot
A meltdown has occurred at the National Mint.
Brass and nickel bubble violently.
Copper rain stains the highway, and
dinner goes cold in a thousand or so homes.
Expecting a fallout, the government
forfeits the idea of minting altogether,
going for new millennium alternatives:
hullabaloo vouchers for the kids and elderly,
insurance for the hardened insane,
jagged aluminum for bartering parents,
kicking around dumpsters to find diapers.
Look, maybe money isn’t the cardinal issue.
Money didn’t start the fire. Money
never flicked that irretrievable switch.
Officially, the government blames the people.
People, they say, are what drove money
quickly out of business. People ought to
respect the tender reserve of alloys and
silver metals that give their life meaning.
Tomorrow the mint will be nothing but silt.
Under the new provisions, government has
verified that it will be very difficult to live.
West of the river, the armory is stocked with
Xanax and crates of little Lincoln tokens.
Young children play by the well-oiled water.
Zeppelins fill the air, fueled by boredom.
13
This Too Was Once a Valentine
A girl once touched me
and I touched her back,
pressing my palm
where the tangle gets ugly.
It was Valentine’s Day,
so I bought her
a salt lick
and now she’s
licking her way
to an early fame.
14
The Sendoff
At dawn, the boats skip shore.
Bring your family if you’d like.
Bring your friends if you’re sure
They want to see you off.
An entire ceremony has been orchestrated
To ensure that they remember you.
When the maestro counts down from three,
Mangoes will explode
And all the trees will turn to tears.
It’s going to be quite a show.
I know this is happening suddenly.
But we’ve known since you were born,
This is one more thing you cannot change.
15
Calm Keeping Lights at Middlebrook
See my breath is a paw print etched into the glass
A watermark on the postcard of the I-35W bridge
Spanning its untwisted metal bravely over the dark
Blue so far from where I stand scattering my calm
As the wind wraps about my arms nicking my cheeks
I feel nothing short of the lights that surround me
My awe for the swift keeping green and my shame
For the rage keeping red are rocks in a river next
To my joy for the infinite blue spilling over the edges
Of the bridge wanting myself to fizzle over the rim
At this moment the wires could snap the map unfolds
For the sound of tongue icing over cracked lips
Do be careful of that bridge lovely as it is it has a
History tonight I wait for a shining bullet of a star
To splinter my infrastructure staring out from
The window of Middlebrook weaving the river
Like a ribbon between my fingers and watching the
Bridge O blue bridge I wait for you to bend at the
knees
16
too late
why did I ever trust Tomorrow
to carry the message that only
my hands spider-iced with veins
could deliver hot as your lips
which spark coals of yellows
and ruby reds when touched
by my fingertips which were
just begging to release the
valuable information that I
trusted you would need while
I was away but no I put faith
in Tomorrow which ultimately
never came but in a mahogany
casket engraved with the truly
touching epitaph here lies
a messenger whose fate was
writ out of thin air which
was my own fault for never
giving it solid enough ground
to walk on my mistake for
never laying the bricks early
enough in the morning instead
waiting until all the birds had
finished their songs and all the
leaves of the trees had gone
through their too-human changes
before taking the message out
of the pocket of Tomorrow and
17
taking up arms to tell you myself
that you are it you are my one
that the sentence ends with you
18
II.
All is Balanced & Fair
in Fairyland
“I mean, it’s just so weird that I called you and I
thought he was suicidal and now he’s dead.”
— Courtney Love, on Kurt Cobain
bad poem
you’ve left me
scrawled and
scribbled
like a bad poem:
the long, awful
kind
that you skip over
large chunks of,
trying
to get to
the end,
where again
you feel
nothing,
but that
was because
you didn’t read
the whole thing.
20
help i hurt myself for sport and now i sport no more
for jabs
i took a shower today
after hearing of your rock star status
and brushing the soap hard
against the ridge of my jaw bone
i thought about how obvious it was
that your number was thirteen
and someone should have stopped you
but no one stopped you
and now it’s serious, life is no sport
and your body will be what it is
son, CNN adores you
you’re a damn unlucky icon of bravery
i’d keep an eye on you but i’m sure you’ll do fine
without me, without me, jack
isn’t this what you needed to hear
go your own way, look both ways before crossing
the street don’t roll in the shoulder lane
and play sports if you must!
21
CNN and myself have a barrel of questions
like whatcha gonna do jack
when you get your body back?
whatcha gonna do jack with my prayer?
22
Journalist Mike
Mike Disman is a crafted journalist. He carries a notepad
well and moves through crowds with muffled footsteps.
He often interviews the prettiest girl nearby, and she is
often smart.
Mike Disman doesn’t light his own cigarettes; he doesn’t
light any cigarettes at all. He holds a Flip camera with only
one hand. Who knows what he’s doing with the other.
Could be fingering girls. Could be texting.
Mike Disman reports about good things, like Occupy Boston and the horrors of seal clubbings. He went to a Quaker
school, does his work on time. Long ago, he would sit in
silence for an hour, standing up only when he had something to say.
Mike Disman stands on the hill overlooking the meeting
held in Boston Common for Occupy Boston the night
after the eviction. Behind him, there are skaters cutting
circles in the ice to the velvet thunder of Christmas music.
Mike Disman is constantly putting new numbers into his
phone. He has a sprawling network canvassing the grass,
steel and stone of the city.
Mike Disman puts his phone in his pocket, and starts
toward the bench at the foot of the hill, the Christmas
thunder fading as quickly behind him as day does to night,
23
enveloping him the way only darkness can. He lights a
cigarette, and does some simple math. It all keeps adding
up to 99%.
He doesn’t know where to go. He walks home. He records
a couple of notes in his yellow notebook and charges his
phone. Then he sleeps, dreaming of the same thing you
and I dream of, but in different colors.
Mike Disman is a journalist you could consider revolutionary.
24
asbestos
deep inside the houses you can hear the hollow ring-ring
of here-to-there things
25
Free Stress Test
are you alone? right now? do you watch people go? do you
follow them? with determined accuracy? has winter held
you? by the throat? have you noticed the dark patches
fall? do you still walk around? have you somewhere to
be? will you bring a coat? buttons? how many calls do you
make? in a day? late at night? do you prepare your words
ahead of time? will you ever have nothing to say? do you
make demands? for peace? silence? are these natural in
you? or do you force it often? every so often? could you
dance? without standing? do you often stir? while sleeping?
how long does it take you to fall? asleep? do you know?
what’s it mean to you? to sleep? what of your short-term
experiences? your long-term memories? do you recognize
the divide? what does it mean to you when i say the past
is a myth? does everything flow around you? or ahead
of you? how do you feel about being a stone? in a calm
current? can you hold your liquor? do you drink? or does
sobriety glue you? when a drunk man yells hello to you, is
he crazy? or are you? for turning both cheeks? what podiums do you possess? which colored sign at a protest? which
would you hold? with grace? in regards to race? would you
talk down to evil? stand up? if someone told you there, that
is evil? would you be confident then? what of your body? is
it neat? do your muscles stretch? like erotic elastics? how
often do your thoughts drift? towards massages? have you
grown deep enough roots? do you feel the earth when you
walk? or have you been flung? are you floating? who has
you? your heart? who would own up their mistakes to
26
you? who saves & makes their mistakes on you? do you see
your mistakes as flukes? pariahs? or as accurate representations of your failure of personality? this part’s important.
do you think? or do you feel? both? how on earth do you
manage? are your parents proud? are they still alive? do
they feed you? do they fight? will it last? are you all right?
27
Quit Playing Call of Duty,
Quit Wasting Your Stupid Life!
“Quit playing Call of Duty, quit wasting your stupid life! I’m
hitting up the streets with Jeff, about to print my ticket and other
plane-related shit, and upon returning I shall tell you about the
worst emotional mugging of my lifetime. ”
So goes the dial tone
echoing like a foghorn
two bowls out of luck
while taxis idle cross-eyed
I steal another cigarette
from Jeff, who is sprawled
over his sheets
my paperwork is ready
I only wanted to
hear you I knew
you’d be sour
I got what I asked for
trapped inside an
hourglass cracked & with sand
now spilling
out this ear,
into these hands, I
tremble wired & can’t feel
28
the cold cradling
my baby breath
light, let my memory not lead me away
grant me the winds to aid my tired oars
and the grace to lose what is already lost
for I’ve never felt so displaced as I do now
give me the luck to pass the crowded way
and to open up what’s always been closed
so goes the prayer
of the failure
29
Prayer to Ra
Thank you, our blessed Ra,
For the light you shine tonight,
And for being our only sun
Through spans of darkness;
Even though in actuality
You are just a series of
Buildings, we love you, Ra;
Though your great, golden wings
Are just a series of windows
Glittering in unity,
And your eyes most likely
Just a couple of antennae,
We still thank you, Ra,
For dressing us in your light;
Even though we can only
See you when our vision has
Widened to see the whole
Unity of you, our blessed Ra,
We love you for it,
And pray that we make it
Through the day in order
To see you, again and again.
Shine on.
Ramen.
30
poetry meeting
who brought the doughnuts?
who has any idea how to spell donuts?
what the hell is going on,
what dots are being connected here,
who wrote this appendix?
whose poem is this anyway?
this is the part of the comment
where i’m going Socrates on your ass
if Socrates had a great-great-however-greatgrandson that made a name for himself
asking bears about the pursuit of happiness
and ended up being a joke on Animal Planet
like every other joke on Animal Planet
that made me want to be a poet in the first place,
maybe.
i’m counting up your ambitions
and so far my right hand’s got it covered
so my left hand can circle the spots
where you forgot your head.
this is the part of the comment
where i’m going Cinderella on your ass
if Cinderella somehow pushed out a poet
that could shine and polish circles
around that glitzy bitch.
31
thinking i’m allowed a potty break,
i think of this also:
if ever i am asked why i spell my name
kaleb (worst) instead of kaleb worst
when i make my loose-leaf appearance,
i’ll say in response:
well:
kaleb worst lives in Boston,
kaleb (worst) lives in Fairyland.
and maybe they’re slowly becoming
the same person, but kaleb (worst)
doesn’t know that & it’s good enough for me.
and when i look in the mirror,
reflecting my vanity back at me,
boy do I terrify.
i’m back and thinkin’ Dunkin’.
this is the part towards the end
where someone spits their autograph on the wall,
never to be seen or read by us again.
i wanted it to be anyone but me.
but no one is or ever has been kaleb (worst)
so thank god, wasn’t me.
32
Kyle Died Twice
When He Ate Peanut Butter On An Egg
He was allergic to both
and should have known better.
33
would you always blame the dead
what’s it smell like in the room?
smells like freshly burnt laundry
smells like last year’s spilled wine
smells like the gas of a fire sprite
smells like the sun straddling Venus
smells like the breast pocket of a poet
smells like the breast meat of Ra
smells like Harriet Tubman’s neck
smells like a church ice cream social
smells like wanting heroin
i can remember the smell
of fall, the stagnant winds
in the breath of the air
but i wouldn’t blame the dead
you know?
they’re not messed up in this mess
they don’t turn different colors
they’re not to blame
for the mishandling of the money
for the glory holes in the shed
or the many loved who are dead
except that time during sex
when you lost it, baby, i’m sure
34
the dead stole it from you
(but what the dead take
you can always get back)
good luck with the rest
35
What is Calcium?
Who gives a shit, do you?
Let’s talk about drugs.
Let’s issue a new company motto.
Let’s strip-search the human genome.
Let’s write DOG LOVES YOU
in chalk on the kennel sidewalk.
How about them vandals?
They’re pretty good with a skillet
and better with a bit of purpose.
Their bones are even made out of it.
Let’s talk about sex this time.
It’s important to be strong and good
at sex, or else you’ll break.
This I learned from a book.
What they didn’t put in books
they whispered to the vandal,
who left it tattered, dangling
off the chain-link fence, and
that was where I found calcium:
tough, condensed, collected,
sentenced to the bleak, expected,
and end-of-the-road
end of the poem that opens
a void blank as a glass of milk.
36
The Privileged Many and the Nameless Few
if I had wanted
hormones pumped into my body
right around that age
where I started to feel a certain
burning
in my pants
I would have been refused,
turned out
flat and cold as a bank
statement denying
a critical loan.
I would have spent
the next never-ending
years of my life
shuffling in a bathrobe,
my hair collecting
particles of dust & gum
as it dragged across
the pavement, groping
for curlers and a
tube of lipstick.
when I was born
the doctor said too pretty
to be a boy
and passed the
little ball of meat down
37
the table, past candlelight;
the delivery room
must have been dimly lit
for them to have
thought me beautiful.
it could have been
some kind of omen,
I could have, from
the very moment I was
able to stand, slipped
on mommy’s velvet
black shoes and
pranced around the house,
and my gap-toothed smile
would have been all the
proof in the world
that you cannot fix me.
or, if I had been
born a girl, and
swaddled in a
bundle of bubble-gum
pink blankets,
would there still be
the great thirst
I have with me always,
would I still
objectify?
38
children are hungry,
children always want.
they sleep when they’re sleepy,
eat ‘til they’re fed,
and when they have a nightmare
it’s the fucking scariest
thing that’s ever happened
in the whole world, and
don’t deny them.
children know.
they know when they
feel like their body
isn’t their own.
they know when their hair
no longer belongs to them,
they know when shoes feel
like skis and dresses feel
like mummy’s wrappings.
so maybe he doesn’t want trucks.
so maybe she won’t curtsy.
don’t take it personally.
she’ll still hold your hand.
he’ll still call you mommy,
daddy, there will still be
fireworks on the Fourth of July.
presents under the tree,
just change the color of the bow.
a white one, all right?
39
enough of the gender wars.
treat it like it’s a Monopoly
game and someone’s
bound to fall asleep on the board.
lose the irons, the thimbles,
put the cannon back in the box.
you were born in the right body,
it’s easy for you to win
but your babies? are they lost?
let America have its children.
let them be rare like an oasis
springing out of the wastes.
let them carry themselves
and live out their lives
to the very end of every branch,
where the fruit bunches up
and awaits a gentle hand.
keep them alive
in the pickled face of
ignorance, disgust,
and hatred that one day
could prick their finger
and send them away from you.
if you’ve nothing to say
i’ve given you a start:
you are who you are,
you were who you were,
you don’t have to be a boy,
40
you don’t have to be a girl,
I’ve loved you forever,
you’re exactly the same,
you’ll win out, anyways,
they put too much stock
in names.
41
party in the name of the lord
my headache clings to me
like film wrap
and turns me into a figure of knots
ripping bass-string arteries
leaking battery acid behind me
street light disco lights spin
silver threads on the canopies
my headache forgets yesterday
and drops bullets
into the sockets of my eyes
there’s a taxi speeding
through one ear and out the other
laying down the horn
and charging me for
everything I have
42
That’s It I Surrender
That’s it, I surrender!
I surrender to the newborn nation!
I surrender to the bozos! the brains!
to the murderers! to the manufacturers
of horse meat! to the hand that signs the name!
I surrender to the tumbling snow globe,
the rambling staircase & the nuclear snow!
I surrender to internet martyrs
seeking attention with no real soul
& the fire chief! the bailiff!
I surrender to Congress! the feat
of climbing the Hill!
I surrender to pepper spray, to harsh
winters! tight perimeter! bullets!
the pipe! the rope! the candlestick!
I surrender to Barnes & Noble!
to the military-industrial complex!
to censorship! pat-downs! plastic bags!
the head of the dragon! ruthless scales!
leather whip! gas prices up again!
I surrender to all the intolerance, guts,
bravado, lube, hypocrisy, fear, judgment,
& high-fructose corn syrup of the states!
the language of the world! history! poetry!
philosophy! chemistry! ballet! theaters!
beats! ballads! I surrender it all!
all the marbles, my hand-stitched hacky sack!
my acrylic self-portraits! my scribbles,
43
my arrogance! my letter-plastered wall!
have it all, throw a gala! have my coffin!
my lean wallet! sure, a cigarette! sure,
this ain’t easy! but hey, too much going on
to do anything about it! I surrender my
diligence, & I’m perfectly content to
dwindle in the shadow of my ego!
44
Bleed Loudly, Be Heard
Even as the plane lurches forward, I’m closing my eyes to get
one last glimpse of how I imagine things would be if the air
was a little warmer. I waste no time and begin composing.
Even as the de-icing fluid runs straight off the wings, leaving
reflective streaks of tangerine stained on the silver, I think
of rain and lily-pad hymns. I am being vigilant. Heeding the
warning of the TSA to an extent they didn’t have in mind, if
I see something, I say something. Even as we break over the
clouds, and I feel relief from being so high above any final
destination, I think of home, which confuses me—could it
be Boston, where I have my own bed, and breathe the air of
strangers—or is it among theaters and lakes, with the crystals raking my lungs, where I hear my name in the silence?
I feel joy only from the newest sensation; the small things
forgotten, I cherish as they light up in my mind. It seemed
right to endure the cold on my return to Minnesota—but
wouldn’t you know it, after three days I took several hot
showers a day just to feel good again. So stranded in no
certain sky, being shuttled from one half home to the next,
forcing myself to ignore the dull bleating in my chest, it is
no wonder that I feel apprehensive thinking of you, whoever you are now reading this.
I want to close an open secret: This all goes away. The spice
of new, the salt of old. Even you go away. You fade and twist
into one more knot that ties me to port and that’s about
it. I can’t go on any longer pretending otherwise. We don’t
have to be bitter—I’ve saved us from this ugly reveal—but
45
the clouds are pale blue and wispy beneath the sun, I wish
you could see it. That stand-alone sun, hovering like a
liquid jewel before the morning, indifferent as ever. Right
now we’re just two lonely dudes in the sky, and if this string
stretched far enough, maybe we’d talk about our celestial
bodies and all the angels we’ve seen on our shoulders. But
the string never goes that far. Not for those who stand at
the end of the dock reaching out their arms, not for those
whose coffee burns their hand during turbulence, not for
you sitting elsewhere, and certainly not for me.
The man sitting in 35E—the seat beside me, though I can’t
help but stare out this window—told me that no matter
where I go in life, no matter how sweet my victories, or
even sweeter my failures, I would only go to Heaven by
accepting God—and the rest of the pitch I’ve had memorized since I was a boy—and when he asked me if I disagreed
with him, I should have said yes—honesty is, after all, more
virtuous than faith. If I had told him that sex is the closest
we get to God, would he have smiled in some semblance
of agreement—his six children might find it plausible—or
would that have been it right there, the end of what little
we had between us? I would have liked that. Why can’t we
all be as honest as a man like that—coming right out with
it, pamphlets and all—tell me what you’re trying to sell—
Because the only thing I’ve been trying to sell is care, packaged into neat sentences that you can carry with you. Care
with honesty and candor. It’s a delicate commodity to be
dealing with. It has no supply or demand, but is still worthy of my full attention, as it’s the only thing that makes
46
this—this one-sided, back-without-forth conversation
between us—something worth doing the rest of my life.
Maybe you know it, too—maybe you care more than I do,
maybe you’ll never let me know how much you care—but
regardless, only one of us will be here, in the end. You go
away. I feel that’s worth mentioning twice.
I don’t mean to be so cold—there’s no ice on the wings.
I’m light and blanketed in an ocean of cloud; everything
really is incredible when you manage to stay awake and see.
I want to breathe in this moment forever, far away from
you as I am, unable to cast even a single sound into the
stratosphere. I have nothing to waste. I pour my Coke into a
cup avalanched in ice, wondering when our end will come.
Until then, I care for you. Live confidently. No one knows
you. See often, and say with sweeping certainty all that you
see. Meet everyone. Praise the brazen, seek no judgment,
give without an asking price. Go into the most night-like
depths of yourself to find morning, which comes for you
only. Wheels are emerging from their hiding places. Take
this city and make it a home. No one will do it for you.
Please be seated. You won’t die today or for a while. Be careful
when opening the overhead bins. Someday, I’ll go this way
and you’ll go another, clanging tambourines and singing the
noise of our thoughts. Today, we’re just figuring out more
and more ways to say good-bye.
47
Trust Me You Will Watch Them Fall
Yes but tongues rupture ear drums
and trophies deal a quick death
to the budding mind
this is my only conversation
i have been dialoguing with myself again
long-haired angels
bite into my shoulders
as i boulder over leaves
it’s high time we dance on the round table
as low tides upswing the start of our migration
don’t let anyone tell you you’re wrong
don’t let anyone tell you you’re good
at what you do
it’s a circus romp in the king’s blankets
a stringent lie bent towards
placing you in endless shadow of others
we know things universities cannot
they can’t stop us from reeling
out
or using fishing poles to fly kites
or stabbing pens into dictionaries
48
we’re too kindred to be kind anymore
it’s a link unlike the binding of books
we’re gay with petals stuck on our shoes
they didn’t invite us but fuck
we’re gonna play anyway
and on our wisdom goes and on
49
iii.
Exordium:
The Beginning of Anything
“This hour I tell things in confidence,
I might not tell everybody but I will tell you.”
— Walt Whitman
Where The World Quickly Ends
Where the world quickly ends, there’s a dock that groans.
Either from the weight of my body or from the water,
Which is everywhere, like the wolves also everywhere.
Ducks make noises, too, like distant mortar shells
That shower the cattails. A horse trots into the fog
Curling gray and soft. Darkness hangs in the wings.
I’m only here now that I’ve stolen the wings
Of a vulture, what did you bring? The ground groans
And bulges. Quickly! Speak, before the fog
Bites its tongue and starts to bleed water.
Already the wetness has thinned the egg shells
Of the platypus. The rain retreats from nowhere.
What did you bring? Is it ivory? Up there
The skies are peeling from the madness of wings,
False as wallpaper plastered with ceramic shells.
The bison are frightened. Groundhogs groan.
They chase their long shadows into the water,
Untraceable against the wall of fog,
Which is the same smooth wall of fog
That’s been roaming through the folds of nowhere.
Only the whales know nothing. They break the water
Noiseless as the shuffle of an owl’s wings.
The cold, orbiting satellite groans.
I snatched the scales off an armadillo’s shell,
52
What did you bring? If you lick a seashell,
You can taste salt and mercury. Lick the fog
And taste death. The jaguar let out a groan
When I stripped its spots, I could be anywhere.
The dusk sails over with silent, tremulous wings,
And the clouds, finally emptied of water,
Have disappeared. In the cold mirror of the water
I see the moon encased in a starry shell.
The wolves went wild, hungry for the meat of wings,
And looking for a meal they surrounded the fog.
My scales and spots were no help, they were everywhere,
They found my vulture’s wings. And now the dock groans
No more. No more, the gray Earth groaned,
And a sudden silence took everywhere.
The globe fit in the palm of the fog.
53
Storyteller
For Rhianna
She hasn’t had many ice cream cones today.
She usually eats two, maybe three a day,
and has a dog for a son who loves her.
She is always awake. If you catch her asleep
it’s the middle of the day. In the morning
she spends an hour getting ready for morning.
I’ve rarely seen her among snow and leaves,
but she’s made a tidy white nest out of clouds.
She wears clothes brighter than electric paint.
You’ve never seen flowers like the flowers
that follow her wherever she goes.
For someone who hardly sleeps or eats
she sure knows how to tend to a garden.
She’ll tell you the truth in a different language
and then smile in a kind of way that makes you
want to believe that there may just be people in
this world that make you want to go skydiving.
54
Good Tidings of Great Joy
O come tarry this green-snowed field
powdered with invisible flecks
of winterlight springing blackberries
peppermint & lush red mistletoe
dangling off the naked branch of
the evergreen tempting no one
in particular as the last faint murmur
of December tickles the tambourine
of my ear you draw closer curling
my lips (your final victory) even
the ornaments draw inward hugging
themselves to the earthy root of
the tree glass shivering in the green
sort of reminds me of your crazy
diamond ghost in the backyard
bundled in scarves & clean sheets
eyeing me on the straw manger’d bales
consumed by tinsel & the way time
slows without snow but then visited
by a host of angels linen-wrapped
in grace & lapsed out of longing
they delivered a message i should have
maybe thought to have written down
some shimmer of light that would
have knocked the world off its
chill-bitten feet gleaming like sand
snuffing out a silent white candle
55
Flame
Time spent between kisses
At lips’ touch quickens,
The hot brush of fingers
Melting winter into minutes.
56
peonies in the shower
i opened my eyes during prayer
to discover that i was awake,
reached for my noiseless phone
then vaulted toward the door
past my shivering cupboards
of oak and chrome
and morning was over.
noon flew against the window
like a cardinal with vertigo
and to recover from the
suddenness of my day
i undressed alone
without music or thought
and as the dirt ran off
my feet and snaked away,
i began to feel a warmth,
that became so much
i lost my home.
57
How To Get Into Heaven
The door to Heaven is wide,
people can get in from wherever.
There are those who run in
with their big white teeth on display,
who throw up their hands
as if they just caught some shit crazy Hail Mary.
Some people climb and crawl.
Others tend to live forever.
And some like to walk in backwards
and pretend that it means something.
That by walking backwards
into Heaven we somehow allow
ourselves to pretend there was
never a Heaven.
But this is false.
Walking backwards into Heaven
just makes you look stupid,
and everyone will only laugh at you.
58
Rail 135, Rail Away
The water spreads out before me,
moving away from me also,
a flat-lining hurricane
chasing a late-afternoon train
well into the pit of evening.
This is where I am, this is where
I make my absolute stand.
This is where I am out of cigarettes
and the sun filters through the straw.
This is the announcement, the attempt,
the withdrawal, the consent!
These are the woods, the rocks,
that by the end of day will fill me up,
and make inquiries about how
my portfolio’s been filling up.
Funny you should ask, wild woods
and isolate rocks, about my portfolio,
because you in fact are filling it up.
And that is how it would go
if I could talk with woods and rocks
who fill me up with company.
And if I could talk to trains,
I would make a few citizen requests.
I would ask them to stop and allow
me to ordain the dilapidated barns.
59
I would stop to baptize the islands,
teased by the New England spray.
I would order a resounding silence
of noise rattles, and love rattles,
and rattles of both love and noise.
Because there is no love loud enough
to stop this train, it only goes—
in lack or for lack of love,
it goes and goes and takes me with it.
Out with the sun!
Out with the marshes and tracks,
with the harbor and the breeze,
with the flutes, tams, and squeals,
out with the trees and rocks!
All is out with the secret of me,
unintelligible, transparent, which is me,
the secret and all good with it is out.
Now I know what it is to sleep hard,
have you slept hard, lately?
Have your dreams pulled you inwards,
have you explored the vacuum of your belly
using the lamp of your imagination,
has the mine ever fallen in over you?
To say that your dreams
are an escape frightens me.
Your dreams may escape from you,
but O there is no escape.
60
Whose tree house on the hill cannot be found?
I spot it only for a second, then it flits backwards.
I think it unlikely I should find it again.
I am so high above the pavement
I think it unlikely I should remember how to drive.
Everywhere, I have driven and been driven!
To Stillwater, thru six-ninety-four and thirty-six,
Thru to Marina, winding overlook on the Croix,
To Duluth, screaming up thirty-five-E with stories,
Down to Shakopee, looping down to one-sixty-nine,
West to Watertown, following everything in front of me,
East to Wisconsin, ninety-four cradling us to Madison,
Then to Eau Claire, on to Chicago, to Indianapolis,
More cities, those distant lights! More of Kentucky,
Nashville, Louisville, thru Tennessee and blazing seventy-five,
From top to bottom Georgia! To the sun, Florida!
Now from Boston, now on to Philadelphia.
Every state I encounter and see, I see again
in every state, and remember my affection,
because it was me who first placed that affection.
Now here we are in New Haven,
the sun glinting off the aluminum railway
that’s rushing the other way.
I am a gliding confessional
that would never spill a drink.
What’s it like with the secret inside you?
61
Time Isn’t Mine
Well, I think there’s a time
made for mid-morning birds
when the raspberry bushes
grow fresh maroon words,
and a golden coin sits
on the crisp skyward line,
but that time fears the fire,
that time isn’t mine.
And I think there’s a time
to abandon sweet dreams—
so swelled with imposters,
they’re not what they seem,
and instead sit forgotten
in the milky moonshine,
but that time’s gotten tired,
that time isn’t mine.
How I wish for a time
to hold my own hand
when the birds sail along
and the shells fade to sand,
so I’ll wait for the lilies
to bloom me a sign,
but that time’s long expired,
that time isn’t mine.
62
I believe there’s a time
when the curtains are drawn
to beat back and turn from
your statues of dawn,
and the naked grass with
their proud tears combine,
but that time’s in the mire,
that time isn’t mine.
Yes, I hope there’s a time
when this wasteland of leaves
gets swept to the sky
and returned to the trees,
then maybe, for a while,
our faces could align,
but that time’s gone on higher,
that time isn’t mine.
63
Palette
Possibly you’re untouchable,
possibly you’re a ball of light
untouchable in the fog.
I don’t know how it works.
Through the mystic wrappings
of nature’s balmy breath,
everything is a delicious mystery.
The long stare of the streetlight
bathing leaves in white,
the cold cough of pigeons
rifling through the silence.
Possibly you’re cooing, somewhere.
Men sleeping beneath elms
of autumn open up like clams,
and these harbor-kissed envelopes,
nestled like eggs in a boxy nest,
are all headed west for you.
Expect lots of ochre, mandarin,
possibly a splash of wheat.
For myself I keep only the golden.
64
Sublime
It sat square and sour
on a dark evening napkin,
lolled on its misshapen side,
and with pudgy fingerprints
pressed to form impressions,
it looked a rather lame lime.
Yet the faces surrounding
the thing seemed impressed.
They noted the way it spoke
with acidic hisses, how soft
its bruises, and though lifeless,
they forgave it for being boring
and swiftly bore it open, hungry
to grasp their tap-tapping fingers
around its sweet, emerald core.
65
dawn en route
it’s red like clouds of fruit,
and tickles like a dream
where we hug our father
and tuck our little sister
into bed, promising her
that if she closes her eyes
today is gone, and isn’t she
lucky that she’ll forget
everything while we’re
still driving east into the
crimson morning holding
naught but our heads toward the sky.
66
God
The morning after everyone’s left His house,
God gets to scrubbing His floor, spit-shining
His china and dousing His lot in spring.
Who could deny such a host as that?
67
For Daze
The ex-lover of my ex-lover got me drunk.
Probably a subconscious/completely
conscious ploy by the bastard
to return her to her other,
to the rain retreater, to the salt miner,
to the terribly handsome stick,
to my toy piano fingers,
to the rock of my night, to me.
When truth entered the room,
barking and delirious,
people told me to let truth stay.
But the fucker was biting me
and that is not the way
I like to spend my Saturday.
So I shuffled off the stoop
of the room, pursued by a mood
killing diplomat, a good friend
all caught up in himself,
sweating and serious and
far too drunk to square with me.
I threw my keys. Missed his knees.
And when you came up,
and smudged my white shirt
with your eye makeup,
I could not believe
that I, the stick,
had given you up.
The promise made its way
68
from the cup to our mouths,
and the seal was unbroken,
some of the bad undone.
In and out of my playground dreams,
washed with salt and the sun,
I just listened to your breathing:
light like the sleep of a baby.
69
Song of Myself
I
I dress myself,
and what I adorn you shall adorn,
for the underwear I wear is the same as yours.
I loaf in the lilac-scented laundry…observing a strand of
my hair.
VI
A child asked, What is your hair? pulling it from my head,
leaving it in stale clumpfuls around my feet.
Perhaps he thinks it morbid, or perhaps he thinks it dead,
but yet something tells me it is abounding and alive.
And still it seems to me now the shavings of my backyard.
XVII
I abandon original thoughts,
I adhere to the common thought and the good idea,
if my thoughts are not everything, they surely are nothing.
70
This is a poem plucked from the wing of the globe.
This is the poem that has been written before.
XXV
The sun has a gun and will murder me,
but it does not know that I too have a sun,
rising and diving daily within me.
I hear the orbs and seizures of the universe.
I hear you whispering, O planetarium.
LII
I am large enough to fit in my bathtub,
hold nothing back from the present,
and send myself drifting in lacy jags.
I have left a message for you on the sidewalk,
look for it between the cracks and in the gum.
Soon I discover you, later will I remember.
Lighting my fire in the ether,
I wait for the day you find me.
71
May Sunset
With our bubbling spirits intertwined,
we watched the final sunset of May.
The tips of lilies were chalked with gold,
yet all the warmth had washed away.
I know not what it means
to those who loved it best.
And I know not what it means
to those who won’t see the next.
72
Best Wishes
I would like a wild mountain pony.
I would like a cobbled little street to ride it on.
These are not my only wishes.
Popcorn would appear for every movie
in the theater premiering my memories
both forgotten and not, so I could live
it all again, but this time with popcorn.
A cloud-stuffed bed for the summertime.
Perpetual, fraught-with-friends summertime.
I would marvel at all the architecture
and sample the inns drunk as night.
Every dog would be met with my bark.
Woof! Woof! How does it feel, fuckers?
I’d send for you to visit me by the pond.
There would always be bread
with which to feed the ducks.
And if these are my wishes, you’d always wear skirts.
I would lock myself away on the weekdays.
The fake things I sow would sprout up real.
This discovery could land me in government.
I guess I’ve always wanted to win for a living.
Along with the pony, I would get four ferrets
and name them Earth, Wind, Water, and Dragon.
Dragon is my favorite of the ferret crew.
Through the center of my porch flows a waterfall.
In the back of my yard there’s a well
that leads to an underground river of money.
Inside there are pictures of everyone I know,
73
though the windows are open should they ever go.
I would massage angels’ feet, lick off their nail polish,
not give a damn what’s on the TV.
I’d eat salted pretzels sans the pretzels
and write poetry inspired by my ferrets
Earth, Wind, Water, and Dragon.
One of my poems would be about
the way they sleep so close together,
as if attempting to share a dream.
And soon, I’d be awarded a Fulbright.
Then I’d shoot myself outright.
74
About the Author
kaleb (worst) is studying Writing, Literature and Publishing at
Emerson College. He has previously produced three chapbooks of
poetry: The May Sun Never Sets, We Want So Much More Than Revelations,
and Summer As If Light Through A Dream. At the Saint Paul Conservatory
for Performing Artists, he wrote several plays. Once, he had a short
video shown at The Kennedy Center, and it felt like standing on the
shoulders of giants. His poems have been published in Gangsters in
Concrete, his photography hangs in his mother’s living room, and the
rest of his mind has been shored up on his website. Born and grown
in Minneapolis, Minnesota, (worst) currently resides in Boston,
Massachusetts.
Photo Credit: Olivia Bilbrough
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