Three Poems by Christopher Kennedy


I Have Approximated Lightning

There is the ghost and then the ghost’s shadow. By ghost, I mean memory. By shadow, I mean nothing. Or God. Or feral animals. I could mean father or mother, but I have decided that ghosts are preferable to parents, that feral animals are preferable to absent gods. I grin to show my fear. The centuries of blood flow through me, a necessary poison. I mean only that this has been a long winter, cold, and full of snow that accumulates at night, that stuns the eyes in sunlight. I mean that I have approximated lightning in my heart and sensed the storm that follows. And I have seen the pyramids made of diamonds and coal in the dream of nowhere left to go. And they were beautiful and dangerous and when I turned to you to say we should leave, you did.

City of Shells

You spend a lot of time removing shells from living things. Sleep means things are quiet. You can hear it. The things with shells look like what you imagined a monster would be before you knew all monsters live inside you. It has been a long time since sleep. In one corner of the room, a pile of shells nearly reaches the ceiling. It is a village of empty husks. A sculpture of useless carapaces. You would sleep inside one if you could. You remove more shells. You don’t remember when this began. It isn’t likely to end. The city remains empty. The shells slide off with one shuck. You’re good at this. In another corner, a confusion of meat that walks.

Better Theater Than My Skull

The cloud, dispersing above me, is a bird flying back into an egg—then disappearing. The moon is a doll’s head melting in a bonfire. There is a moment just before sleep when my body lets go, and I’m empty as a dead man’s shoes and old enough to be my father. The night sky darkens. Its black flank tattooed with light. The moon comes and goes. I wait for the curtain to rise in a better theater than my skull. A heart is four rooms filled with blood. The dead man sails his coffin across the tops of burning trees.

Christopher Kennedy is the author of five poetry collections: Clues from the Animal Kingdom (BOA Editions Ltd); Ennui Prophet (BOA Editions Ltd); Encouragement for a Man Falling to His Death (BOA Editions Ltd), which received the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award in 2007; Trouble with the Machine (Low Fidelity Press); and Nietzsche’s Horse (Mitki/Mitki Press). He is also one of the translators of Light and Heavy Things: Selected Poems of Zeeshan Sahil (BOA Editions Ltd), published in 2013 as part of The Lannan Translation Series. His work has appeared in numerous print and online journals and magazines, including Ploughshares, The Threepenny Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Mississippi Review, Ninth Letter, and New York Tyrant. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts, and a grant from the Constance Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts. He is a professor of English at Syracuse University where he directs the MFA Program in Creative Writing.

Image: lauramusikanski,

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