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Poems By Don Kloss



My thoughts are crayfish
in shallow waters.
To find them you must
turn over the smooth stones
on the bottom
with a stick,
your pant legs rolled up
to the knees.
Be quick-
They will skitter away
in a cloud of silt
for the depths.

The Ice Pick Surgeon
(For Frances Farmer)

The customers couldn’t see
the star you once were
as you had them sign the register
at the front desk, or called the bell hop
to collect their bags.

They didn’t know the Frances that
could not be controlled,
that bucked authority at every turn,
that engaged in dangerous politics,
that lived the role of raging, mystic
better than any role played on screen:
The Frances that escaped like vapors from a tea pot
that afternoon years ago
hidden from the reporters, the flash bulbs
in a private examination room.

No directors for your last performance,
no cameras, no costumes-
Cold sanitary room,
gown, sheets:
On the stainless table, you lay.

Only took a mild shock to put you out,
Dr. Freeman said to you,
and it will be over before you can count
backward, from twenty to one.

A nail punch slipped under
the eye lid, a tap with a mallet
punctured the bone,
broke the crust,
a few swishes back and forth
against the orbital plate
severed nerve endings
like Hollywood contracts.

They gushed, flushed
with relief at your bed side.
No more of your aggressiveness,
no more limelight or rage,
no more communist writings,
no more vitriol-
nothing but calm.
At last, for them,
you would be a good girl.


Portrait Of The Artist In A Sub-Terrain

The art is not in the words, but in the method.

These words don’t fall from the sky
as cosmic dust or particles of asteroids.
on the basement floor, on my hands and knees
I tweeze them: They are tiny clumps of dust
underneath the desk, static lint
collected from the corners of my pants pockets.
They are cobweb thoughts, plucked from my brain
for study. I name them, log them in my catalog,
store them in Petri dishes, cases of dry slides.

I find these words, these bits and pieces
in the middle of the night-
in the middle of the fucking night
when children are sleeping,
crickets are mating,
husbands and wives are tangling,
lovers are making love,
local girls and corner bar bikers
are just- plain- fucking-
and the heat and the friction they make in the night
creates the sonic waves that I follow to the fuzz,
the lint, the sock that the washing machine ate.
Like a silver dog whistle, they can’t be heard
but I can sense them. Like a bat in a cave
I feel them bouncing off of damp, mossy walls.

And now I feel you on top of me in this soft cave.
You sweat the sea salt water,
damp hair dangling above me like stalactites,
eyes like tiny oil lanterns. The opening casts
dim light on our faces, your clavicles and tibias, my sternum.
Thin finger nails scrape across a ribcage-
a knife blade stealing across a slick whetstone.
Humid breaths penetrate membrane walls,
seeping through, like blood through a gauze wrap-
I stop your rhythm to snatch a tiny wad of wool from your navel.

Make no mistake-
I am not a poet.
I am not an artist, or a lover.
I am a scientist, a collector,
Dedicated to the work crowding this cellar:
too many specimens, and never enough time.

Don Kloss is an Ohio native who now calls South Jersey home. He is also a musician/songwriter and enjoys outdoor pursuits. His favorite poets include Elliot, Yeats, Plath and Beat poets Kerouac and Bukowski.




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