Kyle Vaughn


I was driving a 78 Pontiac and
had a sore throat.
With my slag halo, I could
rip twilight from a blonde evening.
Cars were harder then—
bone-black body, ashy wheels—
I didn’t need to be clean.
I believed in death-bed deliverance and

magic words lit like an arcade.
I insisted on undoing myself, straddling
a blaze like the upholstery burn where
the cherry fell out.

No one meant it, but they all asked if I was ok.
At home, I booby-trapped the
doorknob, stuffed a towel under the door—
especially if it was fatal, every last curl of
pipe smoke was for me.
And the police, holding up papers
to the peephole, didn’t like my explanation:
go away—nobody’s home.

But falling asleep on a Salvation Army couch,
that flame descended, then rose in fever,
forging a hundred worthless ingots
back into my head.
I always learn the hard way:
immolated, sunburst,
firebird, revival.


If I concentrated hard enough,
a Triumph motorcycle
could find you and drive you where
I’m crushed inside,
sorted into pieces—malfunctioned to obsolete—
so you can see this tapedeck where
I’m making you a mixtape.

There’s nothing like the sound
of the cartoon snow behind my face,
nothing as stunning as
your hair in stormfront wind.

I won’t stop the music
as long as I’m fording this deep river
between my long nights
and the hope of
your ink-dark yes.


Kyle Vaughn’s poems have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including Vinyl, Poetry East, Confrontation, and The Sentence. His prose has appeared in English Journal, where he won the Paul and Kate Farmer Award for his article “Reading the Literature of War: A Global Perspective on Ethics.” His photography has appeared in journals such as Annalemma and Holon, and his book A New Light in Kalighat, featuring photos and stories about the children of sex workers and the children of crematory workers in the Kalighat district of Kolkata (co-photographed and co-authored with Breanna Reynolds), was published in 2013 and featured by Nicholas Kristof’s Half the Sky Movement.