Five Poems by Kyle Hemmings

Beautiful Action

"Bed, Shelbourne" by Christopher Woods
“Bed, Shelbourne” by Christopher Woods

I don’t want your tentacles of despair.
I don’t need your heavy confessions
pushing me down
20 fathoms into the night.
After years of unloving,
of remaining tightly-wound
around a hollow core,
I’ve learned that the moon
is a cheap romance.
My real father was a traveling jokester
straight out of a paperback
the setting of Southern Gothic,
who tore my mother and me into
a thousand insane riddles.
It got to a point
where she could no longer speak
and I became his dumb symbol
of a prize.

I can no longer carry the metastasis
of old bones is what I tell the women
who try to buy me with gifts,
as if love could be a kind of long-term insurance.
In time, everything becomes ruined leather,
slippery soul on surface.
All I want is your beautiful action.
So by morning, I will close my eyes,
blow an islet of cigarette smoke,
as if a self-contained victory
of some kind,
as if nothing ever floats away.

We Were Not Built to Last

You turn sly when I reach for your dangerous curves.
I spin quarters in the rain, a random ritual.

You catch fly-by acrobats in bed, their shadows trick you.
After sex, I’m the forgetful elephant you drag by its tusk.

You once had a toy poodle named after a Kama Sutra position.
I once had a mutt that almost killed me when it died.

You murder me with a smooth simile.
I’ll slay you with a hard truth: We are like spiteful siblings.

My delusions are your smashed cordial glasses. We still taste the bitters.
You eat too fast and choke. The great chefs of Paris die in sequence.

In your absence, I eat grapefruit in Wisconsin, a slice-of-small-life.
You send me tankas from The East End. Each has a synonym for rain and mist.

In separate lives, we make a great team.
We finally say good-bye and keep in touch.



In a space, in a burnt-out building with bloated walls,
in a shelter for melancholy skeletons only, she makes love to a madman.
She doesn’t know who he is or why she should allow
him to consume her as if she will be his final act.
Perhaps his black-marble eyes remind her of the men
who had used and abandoned her before the war, his bony
but gentle hands of the lover she would have married had he not
been drafted, now lost to underground train stations.
Perhaps he has become a flower underneath them.
Standing naked by a window that traps the thin light,
she fancies herself as a Frieda Kahlo ensnared
by a Tolstoy into a quick torrid affair. Or perhaps,
he is a shell-shocked Rasputin in a smoky room
of mirrors. What she does know is that before
the next bomb drops, this will be the best orgasm ever.
She whispers in his ear that they must conquer the world
or else.



She falls in love with a shy monster, does her best to shield him
from his own reflections. He never reveals his face
in public hot spots, will not meet her behind sunglasses and under
a skiing cap, not even for a cafe latte at noon. She only knows
him by his cast shadows and slow trembling movements
at stroke of midnight, is certain when he finally locates himself
inside her and in some way they both feel holy, inviolate, safe from perfection.
For her, his scars are a reminder that the world is full of precious ironies.
She tries to picture what he looked like before the accident
or before the disease. In other words, she reconstructs him.
When whatever caused his ugliness finally kills him,
she spends her days feeding little black birds in the park,
hoping that someday she can get close enough
to feel their bones.



Her eyes are blue enough to contain Spanish sky,
to hold the memory of the waters off Costa del Sol.
Tall and lanky and forgetful of names. A photographer’s
dream of playful shadow and bone, mini-skirt bearing
innocent long-of-leg. She loves the professor for his power over her;
in bed, he’s a double-speak Nazi, a tongue-twister
of traumas entombed, of wasps and bees and hard-pressed wings.
He loves port wine and death in the afternoon.
He’ll watch her other lovers die slowly,
perhaps by their own poison.

In an abandoned house by an orange grove,
in a room of dust and faint China musk,
the law student plants soliloquies between her breasts,
is young enough to believe in the possibility of swimming
through sea-water without succumbing to thrash and sink,
believes Morocco is a haven for disfigured pilots,
in love with the wreckage, the search for the pristine prostitute,
barefoot and wandering in the desert, a madness indigenous
to nomads, to those without country. She loves his Basque
of soul and knows how this will end.

The professor will kill the student, drowning him
in clear water, leave him belly up, as if faithful to the sky
as if gurgling on his own clouds.
He, in turn, will die by his own hand signals,
his permanently crooked gun-finger, after she tells him
that she’s leaving, tired of his ex-patriate atrocitites,
his petty dictatorship and ruined clay monarchies.
He’ll whimper like a prisoner before pulling the trigger.

She will grow old in another country, perhaps somewhere north,
where the impossibly surreal sun lingers at night. Lives alone,
a plastic flower. In her memoirs, she will write: There were only
two men I ever loved and in some sense I caused their deaths,
even though they may have drowned by their own fictions,
the way most men do. At night, they come to visit me,
speaking volumes in their stillness.

kyle hemmingsKyle Hemmings lives and works in New Jersey. He has been published in Your Impossible Voice, Night Train, Toad, Matchbox and elsewhere. His latest ebook is Father Dunne’s School for Wayward Boys at He blogs at

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