Poetry » Kyle Hemmings »

Void & Sky

She pokes a hole in the sky & she mistakes the endless tunnel to stars for her father’s voice. He died from poor soles & slippage, the grief of gravity across freshly mopped tiles. There wasn’t even enough time to “get her act together,” to become his perfect flower girl, leaking petals, acting out his silent film loves to the accompaniment of grand piano. Swooning. Melting. Dying in the Fall. She pokes a hole in the sky & it rains the sawdust & plastic bits from her old dolls–paper mache or German bisque with the big blue eyes that only reflect back a glazed sadness. A celluloid wanting-to-life. She considers this: Somewhere a princess without white diamonds, without heart-shaped rubies, considers suicide. Somewhere a perfect porcelain tanager remains intact. The world, she concludes, will always be at war with itself. Burma. Schenectady. Another detached finger. Another tragic Venn diagram of love. In the stillness, during this or that truce, after the lives of so many butter-fingered men, she will give away some of her childish things. She will hold on to rote phrases & follow paper trails. Someday, she herself, will fly away.

The Girl Who Was a Sponge

She doesn’t cry over fallen plaster, holes in the wall shaped like kisses. She could have rented an apartment in the better part of the city with windows that opened to cypress or maple. She doesn’t cry over last night’s news. A jilted girl with a face like hers jumped 50 stories and became a wake-robin trillium in someone’s dream. She doesn’t cry over the fact that her sponges no longer come clean with Hydrogen Peroxide or baking soda. She thinks of porous ropes, strawberry vases at the bottom of the ocean. There are ghosts who sit at her table: the mother who never taught her to breathe properly, the jokester lover with those funny plastic ears. He could make anyone die without pain or without being heard. She will serve each an empty plate. This way she won’t have to clean up later. In a recurrent dream, she is a glass sponge, the longest living creature on earth that has never shed a tear.

The Last Winter We Saw Him

Trouble was in the form of bare trees.

Boobies and gannets plunge-dived

into their own reflections.

My father took a swig of bitter cold.

Always drunk on his own emptiness.

One day, his footprints led to nowhere,

which is another way of saying

that his mouth was full of snow.

We would have followed him to China.

My mother sat at the window,

paralyzed in her own frozen seas.

She never cried for help,

never asked for a tablespoon of love.

The sled dogs waited, tongues hanging out,

panting like thieves,

soft-eyed in their white furry brilliance.

It Stays with You

You could put it behind you, leaving scar tissue under eye folds, cobwebs in spear closets, photos of your missing sister in a bow-front chest without knobs. Leaving this small town of Sunday misfits, of women with broken arrow pasts, you feel as powerful as the vampire-sleek girl who ruined so many potholed lives at the drive-in, stood up boastful freckled-armed boys behind the Wal-Mart. The one who kept the ashes of her favorite Munchkin cat in a tin. An hourglass-shaped girl in zebra-print shirts, she hurt you with the spaces between her words. You compared her to some bird of China–a bee-eater, a quetzal, a barbet. Who could afford the distance? You still wear her bite marks on your skin. Before strangers, before job interviewers, you contain your constant thirst. In the failed heart of this city, water leaks from pipes. You’ll die in the dry heat of an afternoon. The dogs too skinny to dream. The birds with wet feet.

{Green Mud}

We are surrounded by green mud. Dodi & i live for it, play in it, paint our faces with it until we resemble some extinct tribesmen we saw on TV last night, ones who lived on poisonous leaves & prickly plants. They believed their reflections were their souls. They drowned in their own mud. Dodi & i make sculptures that resemble us, then we flatten them, scrape the green mud off our hands. It never comes off. We forget the taste of tap water, the sight of jagged rainbows in puddles that never leave city streets. We splash green mud with open hands and pretend we are bombs exploding. When our hands dry, we never apologize. We never explain the tiny scars on our mothers’ hands. They cry over anything resembling a dark spot. Or we build little green men who believe they will not melt when it rains. Then it rains. The angry little men become dirty water slipping back into the earth. We become those little green men.