Poetry by Kyle Hemmings

Mean Streets #1

In a Third Avenue turn of winter

I warm myself in a back booth

of a porn shop. The girl

with pop-up hands

with black cat vibes

and sleek artificial eyes,

green and disposable

so many

technological improvements

in one-night contacts,

electrifies me.





Before me and not a whisper

or trace of an outside

third-party voyeur or someone’s

rubbish in dawn’s after-hour streets,

she strips, peeling

layers of skin, onion-thin

a different shade for each

child who died a flower’s death

and never turned in the parent,

every portal of faulty communication–

eyes, nose, mouth,

stretched into alien longings,

crack-lines hiding vertigo

acid trips without sponsor,

until there is nothing but bone.

I can name each one: the femur,

the tibia, the cranial shell,

so lonely without a prisoner.

She turns to leave

all skeleton and wind song,

echoes of cochlea,

snails funny on snooze-control

and my words are as useless

as pennies of a foreign currency.

Holding the third rib on her

mother’s side, I yell “What the hell

am I supposed to do with this?”

“It’s a hand-out,” the disembodied

voice cries from across the street,

and I know that I’m feeling lucky

these days the soup-lines are long

and in denial and the broth is really

the consistency of the best reduction:

your mother’s water and mucus

when she first pushed you out.

Paraphrasing a Dream

You dream of your father’s house
moon-dappled leaves, autumn crisp,
his favorite elm that he planted
before you were born
too big to get your arms around.
The porch light flicks on
your new step-mother,
the one he used to introduce
as his “best research assistant”
the one you told your friends
lies about
her ugly teeth
& her bad table manners,
is calling you
in her best imitation
of hyena shrill
that your father
is having a second heart attack.

Those weren’t her exact words.
& over time,
the two of you exchanged roles
like neurotic playmates.
The story did not end
with you hating
motherless children.


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