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
exiled
although my membership had always been conditional

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

beside me: the flickering of gaslit bulbs
hissing
hissing
hissing

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
pretend
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
decided
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

but

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

I dreamed a car crash (Sketch)

i dreamed a car crash,
and my fingers burned with the sensate nothing
that seared over me

i could not scream because i had lost the right,
and as the world melted around me
torn and shorn in glass, metal, rubber
burning in black flame and circling overhead
then into my lungs

i thought
for just a moment
of my childhood

and then it was gone
as was the dream
and i was left in the quiet of my bed

— ptkh 080617

sometimes

sometimes
i feel like
tearing my chest
wiiiiiide open

because
that way
you could see my soul
gasping
in the great expanse

sometimes
i feel like
staring into
the sun

and speaking out
in the tongue
in which it speaks to me

sometimes
i want to scream
until i cough up blood
and phlegm

so that
for a moment
you would all
understand

and then
the feeling subsides
and i return back to me

— ptkh 072917

A Writer

A writer writes: That’s what writers do
If you’re writing something, then you’re a writer too
Whether it’s a fiction, biography, or poem
Or just a love note meant for a partner back at home

Sometimes we overthink things, and sink inside our gloom
That to be a proper writer, we’re locked inside a room
Devoid of human contact, filling reams with stoic prose
Dripping with treacle and ennui lachrymose

But that can lead to silence, a mental block, and worse
Until we’re tripped up tripping through convoluted verse
Remember that a writer writes: That’s what writers do
If you’re writing something, then you’re a writer too

— ptkh 061417

My story began before I did

My story began before I did,
Written on leather and linen,
Papyrus and stone.

I was born in the taint of the oppressor
Stained white with a fabricated purity
Invented by men
Then forced into the mouth of God

My story was hammered into drying clay
Like pigeons’ feet
Dancing
Across the centuries.

My myths were chanted
Around snow-ringed fire pits
And quilled onto leaves of hemp.

I cannot deny what has been braided
Into the sinews of my skeleton.

My story began years before I did:

This skin I wear was stitched
From killers of witches
And slayers of Indians
And enslavers of Africans.

This sin was born of the false piety
Of misguided faith.

O, that I could peel this skin like a snake!
But the venom that poisons this blood
Is not drained so easily as that.

My story began years before I did
But it does not end until my final breath.

— ptkh 051517

Another page

i did not dream so deeply as i did that night,
when beneath the cloudless sky,
the moon perched within the chill of air,
an ocean dotted with infinities of stars

sleep came ragged, but
the dreams washed over me
and pulled me deep into their undercurrent

dreams of my childhood,
drenched in clarity,
picked like fresh berries from the mulberry bush:
purple, succulent, sweet

dreams of adulthood,
willow trees weighed heavy
with tears of fallen angels:
green, insolent, bitter

dreams of visions yet to come,
dark chasms of loneliness
embraced by fetid vines and belladonna

behind the mire,
the glimmer and glitter of nevermind
slithered from my fingers
to remind me
that tomorrow would be

another page

ptkh 040117

Factorial

I
am yet over rocky cliffs,
briefly divining strengths —
reluctance devouring
temporal madness
amidst hours with the id:
I.

— ptkh 011217

The Rusted Locket

the smell of salt in the air
the creaking of the rope as it’s stretched taut
the burn of it cutting into the hands
the rocking of the ship
the sound of seagulls in the distance
the heat of the sun on the skin
the slapping of the water on the side
there in the distance…
is there something there?

Meanwhile, in the real world, he screams and covers his head as it all comes crashing down on him, like a barrage of hailstones, like a photograph found in the clutches of a dead man in a trench during World War I.

And then:

— ptkh 101516

Fuseli’s Favorite Fantasm

my friend is back
sitting on my shoulder
whispering in my ear
telling me how pointless it all is
how i’m talking to an empty room
singing with a vacant orchestra
shouting across the chasm
at nobody
 
when i turn to tell him
to shut his mouth
he disappears
and i am
at last
alone
 
ptkh 092716