To My Son

To my buddy
my boy
my little man
my big guy:

I don’t yet know you.
I don’t know if or who you will be
but if you are, know this:
I don’t know what it is to be a man,
much less a good one.

There was a good man in my life once
who tried to teach me,
and he taught me the best he could,

but he also taught me abandonment
and the loneliness of a strong facade.

There’s something you should know about your dad,
your pops,
your daddy,
your father.

I am a man,
but I am more.

I am a man who cries.
I am a man who aches.
I am a man who leaks.
Yes, I am a weak man,
but son,

I will never leave you the way I was left.

There will be times when my every breath is pain,
but I will fill my lungs with you.

I will not be strong for you,

but I will love you to the point of crumbling,
and I will show you to love honest and ugly.

I will dust you off when you fall,
but only to send you back out into the dirt.

This world needs dusty love.

I hope you have your mother’s heart, but I’m giving you mine anyway.
Love her with it,
And your sisters too.

And when you ask me what it means to be a good man,
I will try to teach you;
but I won’t.
I can’t,

because you are teaching me.

– Kirke Hamilton

Nothing

“Well, no. I wouldn’t say ‘depressed’ is the word for it. Not really. I’d say it’s closer to ‘entranced’ or ‘captivated’ or ‘mesmerized.’”
“…”
“I visualize it as this inky, swirling, kind of whispering or muttering spherical thing just perched just in front of me and a little to my left and yet within me. It’s like this thing is so empty and vacuous but it has this cumbersome weight and I can’t get it off me. Actually ‘off’ is the wrong word too. It’s more so in me. And I don’t know how it gets there but I feel it there. Tangibly. It leaves this dry and sticky feeling. Like everything in my abdomen was coated with sticky note glue before it got put in there. It’s like I’m staring at this thing and I know that it’s touching me and sticking it’s black little fingers into the gaps of my ribs but I never see it happen. Like whenever I’m looking at it in one spot it’s probing away at me from this other point of origin outside of my vision. And by the time I look to see where it’s been probing from it’s moved on and started probing from somewhere else. It’s terrible to look at, it really is.”
“…”
“I don’t literally see it. I just mean in my mind’s eye.”
“…”
“It’s kind of an ‘easier said than done’ situation. On the one hand there’s the fact that this thing is probing away at me whether I look at it or not. And then there’s the sticky note glue feeling. That’s there whether I pay attention to it or not. There’s also, as I mentioned briefly, the fact that it has this whispering quality to it. I feel like the thing is either saying something or moving incredibly slightly and imperceptibly. I hear it. But not really, it’s like I’m more aware of the sensation that it had just said something and I missed it because I wasn’t listening hard enough. And there’s something about that sensation that makes me want to crouch down closer because I want to hear whatever this thing has to say because maybe then it’ll be like satisfied or something and leave me alone or maybe I’ll see how it’s moving and it’ll provide some insight into where the hell it’s probing at me from. So sooner or later this thing is getting bigger and bigger in that spot down and to the left of me. And it keeps getting bigger and here’s the really terrifying thing: I don’t know if A) it really is getting bigger B) if it just seems to be getting bigger because of how damn hard I’m looking at it or C) if it appears to be getting bigger because I have, in fact, started to crouch down and look at this drily slimy thing and turn my ear toward it. And the thing about when I do crouch down to look at it is that I don’t seem to stop crouching. Sooner or later I’ve gotten so close to this thing that I start to put my hands up to kind of hold it away, like how you do when the guy standing in front of you on the subway is backing up a little too close to you, and then what sometimes happens is I touch the thing. And that causes a hell of a sensation because it grabs on to me as if by the shirt collar and pulls so gently that I almost wouldn’t even notice if not for the fact that the peripherals of my vision which were previously filled with whatever non-sticky black sphere affiliated things occupy my mind are now beyond my sight. All I can see is this inky thing. And that’s when it’s clear that I’m somewhere in the blurred space between being pulled downward and falling. And here’s something really maddening: I still can’t hear what the fucking thing was whispering, and I can’t see if it was rustling or moving or… yes?“
”…“
“Oh I’m so sorry. I really and honestly hate cursing I’ll try not to let it happen again. But so… um…. God I didn’t even notice that I had said that I’m so sorry. So all that I really notice now when I get to this point is this tangible and sense-saturating Nothing. And that’s what I call this inky swirling whispering thing. I call it Nothing. And as I fall into it I become aware of how easy it would be to just become it. To be Nothing and feel Nothing and taste Nothing and all that because already all I see is Nothing. And in realizing this I also realize how close I am to being Nothing and I see undeniably clearly how small I am and how easy it would be for me to become erased or deleted. It’s kind of a moment of seeing how true that saying is about how we’re all ‘candles in the wind’ and…”
“…”
“What? No of course not.”
“…”
“I’ve never had any reason or desire to hurt myself.”
“…”
“No.”
“…”
“That’s alright. I understand. It’s your job and all that. And I recognize that this has all been very abstract. Maybe I’m not articulating myself well. Would an example help?”
“…”
“Okay, so by where I work there’s this house and in the front yard of this house there’s this dog I always see in the front yard. It seems like the type of dog that isn’t allowed to come inside.
This dog, it’s this huge thing, a German shepherd, and like 110 pounds and probably almost hip-high on me and I’m tall. And this dog is just energetic as hell. It’s got these long legs that seem spring-loaded when it walks and it has the classic perpetually open dog mouth that we love to interpret as a grin and out of this mouth sloshes this enormous tongue. I have never seen it with its mouth closed, not once. This animal just exudes pure, tongue-flapping, dumb joy. But the other day I’m driving home on the 210 and I see this stupid happy dog walking on the freeway and I know from its stupid springy walk that it is The Dog. And I watch this enormous animal walking across lanes of traffic with that tongue bouncing around wetly in its huge mouth and brake lights are illuminating and cars are swerving and there’s just a general air of mild chaos on this interstate 210 as this dog crosses four lanes of traffic and makes it to the carpool lane. Yeah, the carpool lane. And I am able to see this by now in my side mirror because I’ve passed the dumb animal and just as it makes it to the carpool lane it gets absolutely erased by a Camry. I mean this dog gets just blasted. And there’s this terrible noise and the front bumper of this pretty new-looking Camry completely detonates over three lanes of traffic and this dog flies and rolls forward for no joke about 15 or 20 yards in the limp and dead manner of an unconscious running back who’s just been introduced to the helmet of a really solid 290ish pound defensive end. And mind you I see this unfold in my side mirror and I see on this former dog’s third to final revolution, maybe, the thing’s giant floppy tongue sticking out between its newly clenched teeth. And this, for some reason, devastates me. It just completely shuts me down. And I drive the remaining twenty or so minutes of this commute with my left hand slapped over my forehead and my mouth gaping in this shape as if I was about to say ‘oh my God’ or some other similar weird thing you say when in mild to medium shock or surprise but that I couldn’t actually say because I couldn’t summon up the lung effort to force wind past my vocal cords because of the new sticky note glue feeling that has just coated everything inside me from my Adam’s apple to the spot behind and just below my belly button.”
“…”
“No, it wasn’t even about the dog really. I never quote unquote met the dog and I’m not really that kind of animal person. What really hit me even harder was the day after when I drove past the same spot. It was pretty early and the sun was coming up only I have to drive west to work so I couldn’t see the sunrise. It’s that period of sunrise where the light is a kind of robin’s egg blue almost, which is my favorite part of sunrise, and I can see some of this blue but not nearly as much as I’d like to because, like I said, I drive west to work. But I’m driving west and as I drive I can’t help but look over the median into the eastbound lanes to see what evidence remains of The Dog. And this is the thing that really got me: there was not one piece of this dog anywhere. I mean there might have been, I saw a few pretty well-flattened pieces of formerly animal material on that side of the highway, you know, the kind that’s so flattened beyond recognition that it can still be identified as what was once Something but it bears so little resemblance to the real thing that it’s not even gross or sad to see it or think about it?, but road kill is common enough on this stretch that it’s hard to be sure whether these pieces belonged to the late The Dog at one point or not. And that fact hit me hard. That something that was so purely and tongue-flappingly and dumbly joyful can be pulled into Nothing so fucking-”
“…”
“Sorry. That it can be pulled into Nothing so fast. Like just like that.”
“…”
“Yeah. That started a whole week or so of seeing and feeling Nothing pretty much nonstop.”
“…”
“It’s different every time, but normally I try to make myself busy. This time was particularly difficult because there was absolutely nothing that I had to do. And of course this happened to be the one week that all my friends were out of town, which never happens. So I was kind of trapped. And all I could think about and see in my mind’s eye was Nothing and I got to thinking about all the things in my life and the lives of everyone that I love that have become Nothing.”
“…”
“Lots of things. My dad. My grandpa. My friend’s mom. Things that people in your profession would call ‘significant losses’ or something are always the quickest things to come to mind but it’s not just that. It’s also stuff like losing my ability to genuinely like my roommate, and losing my faith in God, and the existence of racism, sexism, classism, and all that.”
”…“
“Because all these things used to have so much in them. They were Something. And now they’re like those flattened pieces of road kill that you drive by and try to visualize as parts of larger Somethings but that you just can’t. It’s like you look so hard at it and all you can see is that inky Nothing and the result is that you try to fabricate in your mind what that piece must have been like as a Something but obviously what comes out is a distortion and it’s just more Nothing with a little bit of frill to it.”
“…”
“For example, I’m sure there are parts of The Dog that I don’t remember as well as I think I do. It was probably closer to 95 pounds or 120 pounds. My dad’s eyes were probably a little happier. The god I believed in was probably more apparent and well-meaning. But I can’t really see and remember those Somethings because it’s eclipsed by the Nothing that they have become. And when I realize this that’s when I realize I’ve been had. I’ve been pulled so close to that inky sphere that I can’t see anything else. And the days I realize this are the days when I sob quietly in my room until I hear someone at the front door, or don’t speak a word until 1:00 or 2:00 PM, or reread books written by people who saw that Nothing too and called it Despair or Neon or Severe Mercy.”
“…”
“Well, bad. And sad.”
“…”
“It’s hard to ‘go deeper’ than that. I don’t really know how to describe it. But there’s also this sticky sweetness of almost cradling this Nothingness inside of me and simultaneously hating it and needing it. As if if I don’t look at it and truly honor it I’ll be disconnected from the hurt that all my friends are feel, and the hurt that almost every great mind in history has felt, and the general reality of the world as it is. As it really truly and honestly is. It’ll be as if I’m putting blinders on and sacrificing my connection with anything true in the world.”
”…“
“Because, don’t you realize how pervasive this Nothing is? Everything that has ever been or ever will be is constantly being pulled into Nothing. This Nothing has all of us by the shirt collar the same way it has me. Do you ever think about that? We are all, arguably, in one way or another, dying right this very moment. Every event that has ever transpired is slowly being forgotten. Even the mountains are eroding.”
“…”
“I don’t know. It’s weird to just call them ‘supports.’ But sure. This is when I need them the most. But oftentimes this is also when I want them least. It’s like I need someone or something to grab me and pull my attention away from this dark whispering thing but in the moment I want to sit in whatever space I’m in and listen for its voice. Because I know it’s real. I know it’s honest. Far more honest than any articulation of it like the one I’m giving you now. I know that might be a sign of self-isolating or bad coping and it probably is but it’s hard to explain. I am being pulled toward this thing and also leaning down myself, and I am simultaneously aware of both how painful and soul-chafing this is and how much it aches and how much I need someone to pull me out and remind me of beauty and compassion and love. The things that are here and undeniable right now. And that’s why I need them and I guess why I need you. Because even if I can’t give them any more than this type of flawed and lackluster and probably somewhat dishonest explanation to them or you at least there’s someone there. There’s Something there. And sometimes you are all that keeps me tied together.”
“…”
“Really? Already?”
”…“
“Yeah. I just feel like I haven’t explained myself all that well.”
“…”
“There’s no way to extend the time? Just for like 15 minutes?”
“…”
“Okay, I understand. I’ll see you next week. Thank you.”
“.”

– Kirke Hamilton

Quicksand

Don’t tell me that everything happens for a reason

 

Even if you could follow the smoke

To where this fire began

And you could point to the

Garden that will bloom

Out of my misery

It simply would not help

 

Thank you

For your Bible verses

And encouraging messages,

But it is not what i require

 

i know that i will feel better with time

 

i know that statistically speaking

Something pleasant will

Come out of this shit

 

But you have to understand

That i don’t understand

 

And your facts and well wishes

Are incapable of cradling me

During this prolonged exhale of my soul

 

Because this is the worst kind of pain

 

It is not a shot in the side

Or a stab in the back

A quick, cutting sensation

Emphasis on quick

 

This suffering clings to the air

It stops my heart and clogs my lungs,

But keeps my eyes open

To watch you hurt

 

It is a slow wooden sword

That has cut into my side

As it carves across my frame

I can feel each uninvited splinter

Adding to the wound

That will never fully be healed

 

It is a long, barren road on a silent drive

 

The moments that stretch themselves into eternities

Just before the rising of the sun

 

This dull throbbing in my core

Which propels me to the brink of numbness,

But spitefully grants me sensation

 

Is lollipops and lilacs

When compared to watching you hurt

 

Because, you see, there is nothing i can’t fix

The tool belt that hangs on my hips is full

 

i’ve got a sewing kit for anyone

Who is falling apart

Chocolate for a broken heart

Jumper cables if your car won’t start

 

But i cannot fix this

 

All i can do is cry

And bake lots of pies

To build a makeshift,

Cherry scented shelter

Around your tattered soul

 

But i don’t want to help

A part of you

i want to fix the hole

In your heart

 

This gash in your side

Because run as we like, Dear,

There is nowhere to hide

But I know that i can’t

Because i have already tried

To stretch my flesh

To cover you from this

Shocking explosion

 

But i am stuck

Watching the erosion

Of innocence

From your poetic eyes

 

Watching the pretty blue birds

Fall from your skies

 

This is the slowest fucking quicksand that i’ve ever seen

 

As it greedily swallows our dreams

As I pound at the glass

Of this one-way mirror

Screaming to be just one inch nearer

To you while your hope

Is ripped at the seams

 

But at least we’ve got that, right?

 

Hope.

 

As tattered and mangled as it is

It is not gone

 

So i suppose we can stand

And say through our tears

 

We haven’t lost it all.

Black Coffee and Sprouts

As I write this it is 2:00 A.M.
And I sit in an empty cornfield
Made parking lot.

Overhead I see the lights of two planes,
Two victories over nature, full of souls,
All headed for the airstrip down I-60.

They fly parallel, these lights,
And they appear to grow closer together,
Until that moment of fire and humanity should come

But the fire does not come.
The humanity drones on;
The baby in 16E wails;
The neck-pillowed and sleep-masked go undisturbed.

And for a brief moment
These lights merge.
They join in a fleeting kiss
Of man-made astronomy.

And in this moment I love this infant star
And I envy its light
And I wonder who you are now
And who you love
And whether you believe in politics and men and God.

I wonder if you drink your coffee black
And eat your sprouts
Or if your nose still wrinkles at the sight of anything green.

I’m sure by now you know that most
Of what I taught you was wrong.
Not everything happens for a reason,
Not everything is part of God’s plan,
I won’t always be there.

Your friends probably called you names
And pulled your hair
And left you out of things
But I hope nothing ever hurts you the way that I did.

I tried to raise you on marshmallows for as long as I could,
But sometimes life is learning to
Drink your coffee black
And eat your sprouts.

I hope you learn to say I’m Sorry,
But I don’t think I’m the one to teach you.

I would give all that I am to see you hear those words for the first time
But I can’t.

Because as this newborn star splits again, and becomes once more two distinct lights, each finding its own North, I am certain that I will never see you again.

You make your own light.
And I can only hope to admire you
From this former cornfield
At 2:00 A.M.

– Kirke Hamilton

A Father’s Loss

“Seventy-one is too young,
He’ll miss graduations, weddings, golf, talking sports,
and teaching me all the things I still don’t understand.”

Fifty-three is too young,
you’ll miss grandkids, apologies, beer, cigars,
and learning to ask for the shoulder you needed.

I am too young,
I’ll miss “at least I’ve got you,” “quit being a smart ass,” “I love you”
and striving to comprehend what it means to be a man.

So when I cry
I run to the mirror
to remind myself of skinned knees,
of “Grandpa’s sick,”
of when you were freshly lost,
And I watch the tears dry.

Another salty layer
On this, my ever-growing sea floor.

– Kirke Hamilton

Unless i feel you

Maybe i’m tethered. Maybe i’m chained.

Maybe i should tell my heart to stop

Pounding at the sound of your name

They don’t see you.

They only see your fist

But i know your honey apple kiss

Your smoky carress

How tenderly your fingertips

Loosen my dress

And i must confess that your touch

Does not always make me tingle,

But when it is good, Baby,

It is great

Maybe i need you

Maybe i don’t feel alive

Unless i feel you

Whether it be a clenched fist or a soft kiss

Maybe you need me

i know the man you are

The man you can be

Maybe if you let my golden affection

Seep into your hardened pores

You would hold my heart

As tenderly as I hold yours

i can plant the seed of love

In your garden

That has been

Cracked and eroded

By a burning hate

i know this fury is not your fate

i know that you are more than your past

So i can see past your clenched fist

To your soft kiss

i know these bruises are not what you have meant for me

i know that you are good for me

And, i think, somehow i am good for you

And, Baby, you are the only thing

That i know to be true

I won’t go

Because if i did

i don’t know what i would do

Momma keeps telling me to leave

But i’ve got nowhere else to go

i never really learned how to be alone

i never really learned how love is to be shown

Your name, Love, is etched into my bones

You build me

And you break me

Out of the shrapnel of your soul

You make me

With each hit

By the touch of your fist

You affirm my

Existence

If i cease to be with you, Love,

i fear i will simply cease to be

You are inexplicably intertwined with me

So, Momma, i’m gonna stay

i’m gonna pay the price that he needs me to pay

i know it’s not easy, but it is better this way

So, Momma, i’m gonna stay

-Delilah Davies

The Following

What follows will not be the divinity of Donne or the gyres of Yeats or the pure density of Dickinson. It will not be Eliotic or Dantesque or Byronic. There will be no eponymous descriptors of what occurs.

I am sorry to say that meter-measurers will likely not enjoy this. The syntax will be danceless. Imagery will be banal. Composition will be reckless.

The heart doesn’t beat in perfect meter. Its syntax is irregular. Its stanzas

start
                    and
          stop.
start
                    and
          stop.
start
                    and
          stop.

And when they stop, they stop.

This was not composed for the ears of those two generations hence;
this was composed for yours.

How I came to emerge from wordy womb into textbook tomb I don’t know, but what follows is a rebirth.

So in this present now,
and now already past,
if what occurs nicks the flint of just one heart,
your own personal right now heart,
it has done its work.

Some of what will occur is fictional,
although some is fact.
But all of it is true.
And I hope the fiction in me
brushes the fact in you.

And now that there’s room at the table,
join me for this exploration of the hearts
dustily beautiful,
pristinely crumbling,
and thrillingly mundane.

– Kirke Hamilton

Maybe Fades

I read somewhere that Fantasy is the treasure upon which true hearts fix their eyes and
your eyes taught me that
maybe
Fantasy is not a thing that’s confined to picture books.

Maybe
it’s childish but
since I’ve met you I’ve found that
the words of talking lions don’t stop echoing when they reach the walls of the page.

It’s stupid but I’ve started to wonder if
maybe
when given a chance pigs really might fly.
I don’t know, but
maybe
babies aren’t born to cry,
and
maybe
bullets weren’t made to fly,
and
maybe
I’m getting carried away but
I’m beginning to think that love isn’t built to die

but
you did.

And I miss you.

So here’s how I tell you that
my eyes are still fixed on
the treasure that you pointed them toward.

But it’s getting dark.
And maybe my heart isn’t as true as you always said it is.

You sang a
Let There Be
to my chest that I thought
I’d never forget.

But the thing that scares me most is that
I think I’m starting to.

So wherever you are,
and whatever you’re doing,
sing it again.

– Kirke Hamilton

Waiting

My friend,
you hold far more within
the four walls of your soul
than you have ever held in your hands.

I know how long you’ve been searching.
But now all the bottles have run dry.
The funds have run out,
and your love-things have run away.

But there remains this one thing.

This molten, golden, sloshing thing
that has murmured patiently within your chest
since before you learned
to deceive yourself
by looking for it
elsewhere.

And when you rediscover it
you’ll find me there,
waiting.

– Kirke Hamilton

Jesus Wept

thanks, but you’re the last person that i want to speak with right now

 

i get that you are the creator of the universe, but what you have allowed to happen in my world is simply not okay-

so i reserve the right not to speak to you today

 

is that something that we are even allowed to say?

as Christians we are told to find joy in every day,

but i simply do not believe that within today’s message from Jesus Calling i will find the answer to my world of problems

 

because Jesus is calling me to become more like Him

and

Jesus wept

 

how easily we forget that a smile was miles away from his torn up face when he was to be sacrificed for the whole human race

 

this mask that we choose to plaster onto our face held by the glue of

“God has a wonderful plan for you”

is not the burden that we are asked to bear

 

we are asked to share in the depths of each other’s sorrow

but how does that work if no one is allowed to be sad?

 

or mad at God for what He has allowed to be done

 

i know you gave your only son, but she never gave permission for you to take her mother

 

and i get it

i know 

that the Lord is on my side,

but it feels like i could wash away all of your uplifting verses with the tears that i’ve cried

 

grief is something that no one should be denied

 

and i cannot tell you why we have all fallen for the myth

that things get rough

but when God steps in they always get better

 

because sometimes, sometimes they get worse

sometimes you pray and pray and pray and pray

as if your prayers held oxygen to sustain your own living,

a costly gift that keeps on giving

 

and the world simply keeps on spinning

 

as if a plea never left your lips

 

all of the stories that i have heard are not shared until they have a happy ending

so we can’t stop pretending like everything is fine even if we wanted to

 

 

sometimes not everything falls into place before the end of the show

 

life is hard and God is good

and that’s about all i know

 

-Delilah Davies