KRIS T KAHN
kris t kahn's poetry, prose-poems and essays have appeared in
numerous international publications including, most recently,
Absinthe Literary Review, Melic Review, 2River, Poems Niederngasse,
Branches Quarterly, The Cortland Review and Rattle. Author of
three chapbooks, the most recent of which is Arcana (Little Poem
Press), his full-length collection, Arguing with the Troubadour was
shortlisted for the 2003 Spokane Prize in Poetry, the same year he
was nominated for his first Pushcart Prize. Originally from New
Jersey and a PhD student in England, researching the intersection
of literature and gender.
I run my calloused fingers across
each slit in the relic's rock face.
It's all there: the triangularity
of cuneiform's faded dialectic;
perhaps proscription or prohibition
left for the scholars to decode.
I admit to a certain degree of
discomfort, a twinge in leaving
this unearthed, blemished treasure
to the quotidian theories of scholars
who, after all, are trained mechanically
like robots in a late night B-movie.
I am reminded sadly of when John
was discovered on holy-war-ground,
of how a pallid inscription laid against
his clavicle called the entire gospel
into question. Truths change--
all the time. Truths change with time.
I discern nothing truthful in this,
this act of digging up the dead though
among those who believe Hammurabi
himself speaks through this code
there is a commotion mimicking
civil unrest. Archaeological tug-of-war.
I return home to write my lay report
which, incidentally, has nothing
to do with the Anatolian tablet at all,
but posits instead the death of
the intellect at the moment it hits
the earth, succumbs to it. Or else,
disturbs it, decrypts it, diminishes it.
Therapy is an Act of Ventriloquism
Yes I would like to say that from now on
I will ask my own self 'why?' and so forfeit
objectivity for who needs leather anyway?
It scratches at the back of one's neck like
calico or angora. It urges the answers out
of you in forty-five minute egg-timed doses.
The ritual is old, institutionalised, coded
but there are older ones, more potent ones
involving the ingestion of roots rather than
the interpretation of dreams or ink blotches.
Being horizontal is always problematic:
there is always one person in charge and
there is always one person who allows
something horrific to occur in a dull room
whose walls are lined with notched beltstraps.
I would like to say that I possess the salve,
that I will take the stitches, that Hippocrates
has nothing on me. I would, but I cannot.
I am no shaman. I would like to break free.
Cyclical: the patterns that imprison me,
the habit and this sick power to which I have
allowed myself to succumb all keep me
forever strapped to a dispensing machine--
sticky leather, why why why, like a skein
my reined thoughts preventing verticality.
At first it is never anything but innocent.
It is only the papercuts that came from
a replication played out by a pair of nail scissors
a little girl stole from her mother's dresser.
They are all lined up, soldiers, each identical
to the other; Siamese twins joined at the hip
and the shoulders and the oedipal ankles.
You could spread them out, pin one end down
and then the other, so that a slight breeze
(scented or not) makes them dance in a way
that would never be called uncouth by
the mother who eventually discovers the theft
of her shears. It is simply what occurs,
a game that is played alone, an invocation
to others represented by the multiplication
of unvarying species. I watch as the girl,
with meticulous care, carves away the skin
of the paper like a peach to create androgynes,
these figures who--being all the same--
she must either associate with herself or else
with her self's double. I see the spreading
of them, like a magician shuffling cards mid-air
all in one seamless stream. I too have done
the cutting. I too have stolen scissors, I too have
fashioned angels (and even a fallen one or three)
with my own two hands though how to know
about papercuts? How to know about strings
of lovers—faceless, nameless—replicating
like DNA both inside and outside of my own
seemingly-neutral skin. I suppose it is rather
innocent enough on the surface but then again
who is concerned with only the surface of things?
Not even this little girl is, cutting and carving
and spooning out skin all in the guise of a game.
Of course she does not know. Or does she?
Each slice is a terror. Each figure, while similar,
a shade darker, a shade lighter than the others.
How many of them have I chafed against,
leaving bruises and real blood while the girl
and her scissors leave behind mere discards
of paper? Are my lovers mere replications of
myself or are they a fantasy I carved carefully out
with dull blades, in some late hour of childhood,
one I can return to only in watching a child’s game
of self and other, fort and da, one I can only regain
along a chain of hinged heads bearing no names?
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