Fragment of a dream

I woke, but the dream retained its tendrils in my heart. I had dreamed of a white house with no windows; I was standing outside of it, looking for the door. The sidewalk was cracked, and had heaved from the pressures of the frost and the roots of the tree that stood over my head.

There were fence posts surrounding the property, but no fence: It had been torn away years ago, leaving just the pales as beacons of the long-lost barricade. And the grass, once green, was brown and dried from the ongoing drought.

In the distance, the morning sky burned in purple and crimson as angels wept blood for another lost soul.

sometimes words

sometimes words do not have the expanse
to fit the truth they’re trying to hold

i am an apostate
i am not the first

the streetlights that dimly guide my way
are lit by the souls of those who went before
the furtive glow and the long shadows
belie the keening inside their bulbs

behind me: the church from which i’ve been cast
although my membership had always been conditional

before me: the labyrinthine forest
to be set aflame, burning in concert with my fervor

beside me: the flickering of gaslit bulbs

straining to entice me
to action

and then the words run out of space
and explode into silence

— ptkh 102217

the first time

the first time i saw a naked female breast
i was ten years old
or so

i had thrown a dictionary at a girl’s head in third grade
although i don’t remember that
(a piece of paper i found years later said it
so it must be true)

i was labeled ‘emotionally impaired’
which nobody knew what to do with
in my small town school

i got to go to the resource room
twice a week or whenever i felt ‘overwhelmed’
to spend time with kids i had already learned to call
by a word i’ve since committed not to use

i made a frog out of liquid latex
and a trilobyte with a plaster mold
and i tried to listen to moby dick on a cassette
but the teacher couldn’t match the book with the tape

once a month i would get on the bus with those kids
and go to a special high school
for kids who were more ‘impaired’ than we were

and we’d build stuff and play duck-duck-goose and
that the kids at our home school weren’t calling us
by a word i’ve since committed not to use

one summer the father who didn’t know how to deal
with my storm clouds
to send me to a camp for children with problems

we played on the trampoline and hung out and did camp stuff
just like the church summer camps i’d been to before
and just like the church summer camps i’d been to before
most of the children weren’t like me

i was an outcast among outcasts
i was a gifted child who threw things
when eddie vedder told me years later about jeremy
he was singing about me

during the weekend between sessions
most of the children went home
the ones who didn’t were moved into two cabins


there was one too many boys for the boys’ cabin
so they put me in the girls’ cabin
because i was the most okay
because i was mature for my age
because i wasn’t like most of the children there

we were changing for a swim
the girls told me to put my face in the pillow
until they told me to look

the first time i slipped
i saw a girl’s socked foot
and she squealed in shame
and told me to put my face in the pillow
until they told me to look

then they ignored me and talked
like the middle schoolers they were
like the middle schooler i wasn’t

then the one whose socked foot i’d seen
said something to me
it had been so long i figured it was okay
so i lifted my head to speak

and there they were
her naked breasts
curved teardrops
hanging free as she bent over
a few feet away from me

and she smiled at me and said something else
and i buried my face in the pillow
and waited for them to tell me to look

she laughed
and the other girls laughed
as my cheeks burned and i pushed my face into the pillow

i wondered why it was terrible if i saw her shoeless sock
but funny if i saw her breasts
and decided it was because she was called
by a word i’ve since committed not to use

now i know that she was just a normal middle school girl
trying to figure things out
and i was a boy with dark stormclouds
who threw dictionaries at little girls’ heads

trying to figure things out

— ptkh 102117

Songs of the Wolf #1

On my car stereo this morning was Rob Jungklas’s “John Doe“, one of the best songs you’ve never heard of. And I have the thought that there’s a small cadre of people that listen to Jungklas and are impressed with him, and they’re his audience.

This evening, I’m thinking about how frustrating it is that I keep waiting for an essay of mine to break through, to hit that perfect beat, and it occurs to me that maybe it won’t happen, but maybe I have a small mostly invisible cadre of people that read my essays and are impressed with them, and you’re impressed with me.

Then I think about my father’s words that I was too good to be a writer to ever be famous, which was his fatherly way at the time to protect me from the harsh reality that I wasn’t a very good writer.

But there was a kernel of truth: “Goodness” isn’t a reliable predictor of how famous a writer will be. “You’ll never be famous” is one message that the big bad wolf keeps telling me to keep me from writing.