Isla McKetta is the author of Polska, 1994 (Éditions Checkpointed) and co-author of Clear Out the Static in Your Attic: A Writer’s Guide for Turning Artifacts into Art (Write Bloody). She earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Goddard College in Port Townsend, Washington. Isla makes her home in Seattle where she writes fiction, poetry, and book reviews. Find her on Twitter at @islaisreading and on the web at www.islamcketta.com.
Kenneth Patchen on a Bookshelf
Scanning titles I can’t digest
Hallelujah Anyway shouts from above
slender, yellowed, I think immediately of you—
voice stretched as you shake that handrolled cigarette
twenty-five years ago
the first time I saw these drawings
I thought them yours childlike, secretly glowing
from behind a teenaged gloom.
Same handwriting, I loved them only
so long as they seemed yours.
Until one San Francisco day, long after I’d lost you to drugs, time,
I saw his name and remembered you,
as I do now, and the moments of poetry,
like love, I knew before I ever understood
I wasn’t going to save you not that I ever could,
how a snigger endears, that groceries selected by color
choose story over object, a stick shift should be driven
on curves while rolling a cigarette and licking an ice cream cone,
how the stink of worn Converse is erased by incense,
or our delighted panic as your long cock spurted semen
onto my mother’s couch as you phoned your dad,
and that you could love boys or girls,
even when none of us were worthy.
Except sometimes we were tolerating your heroin hurt
because battered wife Jackie O’s
hid all kinds of pain, like your thrift-shop Cobain cardigan
stretched over knuckles, because I still ache
from that side-eye as you tucked a bleached-out lock
behind your ear.
I never wore rose for anyone else,
but in knowing you opened the door of what I could be
and though that world devoured you, I still seek your traces—
a lingering patchouli absence
and Kenneth Patchen on a bookshelf
under the milky way tonight.