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New poetry by Kyle Hemmings


Bathing Chickens


It isn't like trying to get Miss Thing into a corner so you can whisper in her ear that she's got lice. There are days when you yourself feel flat-bodied and wingless, sucking on dry hair.

It's your problem too is what Miss Thing would say. It isn't like chasing a toy dog into its own shadow, just to hear Miss Thing laugh. Her eyes still reflect miles of Ohio grasslands, a childhood hoed by bony fingers, turned on empty smiles, lulled by insects chirping under the bed. In those years of false bras, Southern Ohio was slow in gravity. Later, a man appeared in her life with nine fingers. He never gave a satisfactory explanation, only that he killed chickens for a living. She left him out of fear; he never said much. But she still gives you goose bumps, those jitter critters under the skinny that makes you want to mate. Or squawk in your wire cage. You will soak the chicken you caught today with warm salty water. You'll remove any trace of slime, mucous. But because you suspect this chicken is sick, shot through with all kinds of antibiotics, you let it go. In the late afternoon, while your dad is buying pipe tobacco at a Quick-Check too far down the road, you spot the same chicken pressing one side of its head against the screen window. Maybe it wants to warn you. Maybe it's just plain nosy. And you and Miss Thing are busy making all kinds of wingless love. She calls it lice, spending entire lifetimes in the space, shaped like Ohio, where you and she intersect. In the night, after she's left, you sink in your own space, your resistance shattered.


a line, (a blue one)


Interview with Blue Boy


He spoke in subdued tones of gray mixed with cool. I had nothing sweet to offer him. He kept staring at a bowl of plastic fruit. Not real, I finally offered. He shook his head politely. Unable to resist my own leanings, I paraphrased Hamlet's Existential question--to live or to be still? In the silence, I thought about all the places or items I associated him with: cocktail coasters,

N.Y. Times fashion advertisements, scaled down copies adorning an abandoned room in a house. I remembered how his image stopped one show as the tableaux vivant back in'86. His eyes now focused downward, as if trapping some thought in their blue-tunnel gaze. I thought about patches of sea-green melancholy. A background mist. A young girl named Pinkie. There was something about him that was so intrinsically lonely.


a line, (a blue one)




This is not your father's Oldsmobile, the one with a transmission called a Hydro-matic. That car could travel. This is only a photo, a still of appearances, shades of grey. Time doesn't lie. But it doesn't tell the truth either. For only one freeze-frame of time, did you remotely resemble, Liz Taylor in National Velvet. This is you back when you wanted to be. Desire was perfect in itself. While your father was trying to polarize a 6-volt regulator, you imagined your heart with four terminals. You even labeled each one with letters. You pictured your father connecting each jumper wire, alligator clip, to the correct terminal. He could do it blindfolded. You had a weak heart. He said in time, it would need a mechanic. What? you said. He meant the car. The first boy who broke your heart picked you up in a white four-door bustle-back, Deluxe trim. This is not a picture of your father's first Oldsmobile or the one belonging to that tow-headed fast-pitching kid. This is about what remains after wrong wire to Terminal F. This is about what happens when you fall for a boy who doesn't give a darn about moving pictures. You're lucky there's still a spark.


a line, (a blue one)




I and Princess Marushka are standing near the rare record shop on Bleecker. She says she's not doing trade-ins anymore because all their stuff is scratched and anyway they don't have anything by The Ju Jus, a 60's garage band that is on the verge of being re-discovered. According to her. People pass us by in fast streams that diverge on side streets or gain momentum up ahead. I'm not sure who is in real time, them or us. I'm not sure who is watching Leonardo DiCaprio on their i-Pads. Princess is dressed in the army fatigues of her very late husband who left this world with an honorable discharge. He was fighting underground czars disguised as cabbies, but his left leg went numb after he spoke of a vision of Christ singing Hey Jude. It wasn't long after that.

I met him when he was still a boy, says Princess, and he gave me the sun. But now he's gone and the sun is poison. So each day, I take a knife, a wish, a prayer in Cyrillic, and try to bleed it a little. When it's cleansed, it will be winter, and we will start cold. A white sun. Later that night, after failing to score a hundred faces with names that never stick, or finding excuses for drowned deals, I meet Princess in a building claimed by squatters. It's somewhere in The Bowery. The squatters are mostly crusty Punks, or victims of nuclear runaway families. You can only see their eyes, the rest is dark. You imagine a few of them cuddling for warmth, or they're already dead. It's nice to die in pairs. In a third floor room, where fall out is more than likely, we exchange paper rain for paper sun. When it's done, at least one of us has been ripped off. The other is still warm.


a line, (a blue one)


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