kris t kahn's work has been published or is forthcoming in numerous journals including THE CORTLAND REVIEW, SAMSARA QUARTERLY, THE PEDESTAL MAGAZINE, 42opus, 2RIVER, THE ABSINTHE LITERARY REVIEW, RATTLE, SULPHUR RIVER LITERARY REVIEW and many others. His third chapbook, ARCANA, was recently published by Little Poem Press. ARGUING WITH THE TROUBADOUR, his first full-length collection, was shortlisted for the 2003 Spokane Prize in Poetry and is available at most online booksellers. Editor of the online poetry journal SOMETIMES CITY from 2001-2003, kris now lives in the United Kingdom where he is conducting postgraduate work in the fields of literature and gender. He was recently nominated for his first Pushcart Prize.


Valentine's Day

          It is as though we are trained
from birth to douse the beloved with
                    candies and chocolates and
          all things sweet on this day, this day
brimming with so many red things.

          The child watches its mother's face
light up after father hands her
                    a box of truffles wrapped in crimson.
          The reader sees this in literature,
in poems left at the bottoms of staircases,

          in letters expouding the heart's most
hidden desires to the story's breathless
                    heroine. It is everywhere: a red explosion.
          A volcano. Even the localisation of love—
My heart beats for you and for you only

          implies a link between medicine and lust.
My heart beats so that I do not die.
                    What about yours? And still, despite
          any cynicism at seeing such sentiment,
I notice that when my lover leaves,

          the pain is so intense, travels so quickly
from brain to limbs to chest, that
                    I can understand the chocolates being
          packaged in hearts, I can understand
the clandestine letters being pressed

          against a maid's breast. The heart hurts.
It is worse than a pain in the toe or
                    a sprained wrist. So that when he leaves
          (as they all do eventually) I see
quite clearly the folly of the day and I agree

          if only until the next suitor comes along
on his knees like a supplicant or a sinner,
                    bearing my heart in his palm, a gift,
          a transplantation of sorts, the veins like
tentacles, the cavities fine places to store him in.

An Attempt at Eulogy

I realise it now. I realise exactly
what you've done by jangling off to
that windy city and leaving your life
(shredded canvases, bits of colour
that once held meaning, that once
hung on the walls that reflected
our entangled and therefore singular
bodies) behind as though running
from something: Furies, love, death.

I did not see then that you ran
because of me, because the walls
reminded you too much of the irises
you painted after van Gogh and which
worked their way into poems. Caged
moments. You felt trapped because
that is what love is and no fairy tale
could have made you aware of this, this
entropy, a palette of too-loud colours.

You told me the news over the phone
where the wire could shock, sizzle, burn
the truth into me better than your lips
ever could. Two years. Prognosis: bad.
You told me you had to die alone, to leave
you be as though you were a discard,
as though I could forget you, us, so easily.
How does one react when a living death
occurs before the body's really succumbed?

You gave no answers. Now I know them.
Like a dog finding a private place to spend
its last moments, like an outcast, like one
whose heart must be tamed and frozen
to better greet the finality in front of you,
you dissolved into the grey, colourless
backdrop of the city. There is no room
any longer for me (nor for you) in the heart
you've been forced to close. There is no life.

We cannot return back, except perhaps
in dreams, to the time when the walls were
filled with colour and each of us were filled
with each other. In dreams I send you irises.
In dreams I kiss your forehead though I know
I can never make you well. I would relinquish
everything I have, everything I am, to spend
the last moments with you, to give you red,
bring you violet, before your ghost quits its bed.


Copyright © 2004 kris t kahn