Les Kay


In one life, requisite tears harden
to diamond, maledictions drift to the floor,
white rose petals in a television wedding.

Later, notions of home rot beneath
the ruptured crust of a distant moon.
Someone else’s minions close around
us like tulips flaming shut at dusk.

They close fast before I can save.
Hovercraft and helicopters strewn
like peony blossoms in June. Reset.

Closer, a pixel Bentley glistens like rabid
saliva. I wake early for practice. We play
the Kansas City Whose-Its this Sunday.
Injury. My long locks glow like violets.

Hello, you say, hours later. The dogs
are whining, wanting into actual sun
to stretch, roll, run beneath actual Rose

of Sharon. The soporific foundation
groans, and as I blink against the light,
you wander elsewhere, your mind wrapped,
like cellophane, in someone else’s packaging.


Chainsaws and lawnmowers cough to life
(waves crashing shore) in service to the reality
of distant neighbors whose sole concerns
seem to be maintaining the measured
artfulness of their front yards for those who
happen past. Morning breaks. This is not
our reality. The call and response of birdsong,
muted slightly by the canopy of fat sweet-gum
leaves in the side yard, flits between intervals
without resolution, stirring amber chipmunks,
bark-hued squirrels from windbreak stands.

We long to sleep into the moon festooned
edges of night. Perhaps, as traffic swells,
oak trees will loosen their grip on acorns,
squirrels will resume their aerials,
leaping from branch to shingle and back
in search of the day’s scavenge. Perhaps the mangy
malamute, who crashes into his fences
as a cresting tide crashes into itself,
will sound the shallows of his colorless charts,
his barking call fill the neighborhood of imports
and vinyl siding with howls that harmonize
like ocean to moon. In the guest room,
you stir from sleep’s seascape. Your ears slip
shackles of responsiveness. We try not to
wake you. The fumes of progress
seep through the swollen bedroom door.


The stagecraft of a tarp-covered stadium outside
our window, the acrylic texture of carpet clutched
in scraped-up hands, the chords of assurance
that clanged through your voice as you arrived
upstairs in a slender red skirt conspired to confirm
the false impression that at last shrouds of sleep
had been wept away, that at last the struggle
to emerge from the comforters as from a chrysalis
was left with its floating. It was then, believing,
that I held you in my arms again as you stroked
my sweated head and promised, with the presence
of touch, that this was real, real as this year’s elections.

Now I know I held nothing more than a notion
of you in my naked arms. Now, in the cold quiet
of our winter house, I study, like kabala, what you,
or rather this idea of you, said. You had tired
of the status quo. Nothing was left to be done,
other than something, so that was what you did.

Now, even if I suspect some slight fever as culprit
and blame my body’s temporary revolt for those visions,
I know that there was nothing left to be done and that
you did what you did. Forget, with me, the unlikely
presences that haunt the narrative. Let them be visions
of possibility, like the Pleiades on a cloudless night
the seven sisters huddled together, offering what
seems a constancy of faint light, even if one sibling,
or another, has already fallen dark. Let us clutch
each other’s hands, as we imagine the sisters do,
and descend that staircase open on the status quo
as the acrylic carpet crinkles between our toes,
and your red skirt swishes us away from doubt.


Les Kay holds a PhD from the University of Cincinnati’s Creative Writing program. His poetry has recently appeared in a variety of literary journals including Whiskey Island, Sugar House Review, Stoneboat, Menacing Hedge, Third Wednesday, Santa Clara Review, Stirring: A Literary Collection, The White Review, and elsewhere.