THREE POEMS – Gabe Kahan

Image: Claude Cahun & Marcel Moore – Aveux non avenus, Planche VI, photomontage, 1919
Gabe Kahan is a poet, freelance writer, visual artist, head arts and music editor for the Red Fez, and the founding editor of Taxicab Magazine. His poetry has appeared in Occulum, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, The Paragon Journal, and others. He lives and writes in New York and never leaves the house without his Burt’s Bees beeswax lip balm. You can follow him on Twitter @GabeKahan or visit his website at

Vacation in Millisecond

My hair is black, thick with pulp. And it’s not really about the way the strands kiss one another. It’s about the moment I decide to show up for a poetry reading. Your hands caressing the door knob, entering the room. I came to see you. In my mind you juggle your character like Jesus. You’re a primordial god with your flannel alone. Time seemed to be holy, ironic, and post-post-modern, all in some undifferentiated trance.

And you couldn’t care less about my hair, my pieces of wet dog clinging desperately for their own survival. I shower and the magick fades. The rising oil I would spoon into my veins dissipates like hippie soap. Weren’t you a hippie just a decade ago? If you were, I’d paint your portrait with my bodily fluids. The pigments dull and salacious. I’d swerve and question and fall back into my bed, half wishing it was concrete. You wouldn’t be anywhere near me. No, you’d be back in your suite, your Galapagos.

Because you’ve made a den for yourself amidst the sewage. It floated up and into your mouth and you bit down. You held it with the warmth of your body until life grew, sprouting wings, fur, and mammoth eyes. The world took you places then.

I saw it all from the back of a book cover, reading with the intensity of a migraine. I was making a mythical mistake. Jump back to my feet on this floor and all you can do is laugh and twist in your flannel. I check my hair. You want to walk away.

You can sense a darkness. You feel obligated to speak, but mix peachy rants with dry heaving. I smile and call it religion. The audience weeps at our mutual violence.

And then I remember. There is no violence. There is no us. I am still just a child waving from a golf cart. You forget me and my hair like I forget a pigeon. The day ends. We go home. You have more conversations. With brunettes, blondes, redheads, and a million sweaty devils. They all become golden for an instant and then they leave too. Meanwhile, I fester with the brownness of your teeth, chanting incessantly with your pages. But nothing escapes. I feel hollow and remove myself from the covers. Whatever climactic astrology I dug from the riverbed loses its glow and rots like a grandparent. And then I sweat. The bed needs cleaning.


Death answers every question with a sweet refrain

Feeling my belly on Christmas.
We’re past       done      making history
of family. Us dixie queers coming through
the back door. I may arrive
in tarnished moccasins     here to salute my city
but my ears knees and thighs
are part of a country devoted to salt       air
and magick perfume. They believe in gods, spirits
like wild animals.        I believe in the crust of the Earth.
It believes in me       in my cock.
The family of sex feels awfully close to parental love.
I feel awfully close to the souls of my feet
as they stammer, oppressing
crickets and microscopic beasts. The spirits
of falling leaves and archaic loves.

My cigar has lost itself to the cold.
The angels along these southern branches sing
as if the moment I share with them is a memorial
to every grandparent I ever had.

This is a poem to my grandfather. He was a Christian
boy lost in the gales of the second world war.
Floating high above my head          right in my temple
right in the place we all want him to be
he’s there. Sleeping on the branches
sleeping on the pauses between these words.

And there’s another one too, can you believe that.
A Jewish intellectual Brooklynite who just said buh-bye
to my father before me         to his nurse before him.
He was no queer. But he is sleeping too
in his golden cocoon. Amidst the crows
who are smart enough to not bark
as the four of us stop for pastries
in a Bulgarian bakery.

It’s the first day of a new year

and I’ve found myself
on a bus with the devil.

His mathematical prowess doing donuts
in my high school’s old parking lot.
What a smug piece of shit.

I turn to the window and see the golden
orange disc spilling out across the landscape.
The grey trees holding prayer.

A thousand blankets couldn’t shroud the fear I feel.
I’ve walked into the day unprepared,
some karmic xenophobia splintering like rotting wood.

I told myself I’d bring snacks for the road.
I did not bring snacks for the road.

So my stomach stands
sinful but awake
growling up the mountaintop.

The shiver along my biceps treat the moment like a memory
to be unearthed after a decade of failures.

I hope you find me kindly in the dust,
I hope you do.

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