Friday, April 28, 2017



 
--PAY ATTENTION TO THE FUCKING SUNSET

 
Scavenging

When you are born a crow
There is love at first
And then there isn’t
Minutes and days become
A manic scramble for food
Scraps or a buffet of road kill
Mating takes a distant second
Without sustenance you grow
Too weak to beat your wings
Which is why you must
Find nourishment
To keep the circle spinning
Should you freeze to death
In the winter ice
Or die perched on
The branch of an Elm
No one will know or even care
Not your friends
If you have them
And certainly not
The one who birthed
You so long ago

 

What They Say

With a straight face,
my teacher says I’ve got potential,
that I show every sign of becoming
a promising writer someday.
At home, Mom says I’m cute as salmon
with a hook in its mouth, flopping on a dock,
gasping for air.
Dad doesn’t say anything, doesn’t have to.
There’s a belt in his hand that goes flying.
It hits everything it sees, leaving lashes
and long memories.

 

Fox Hunt

The thing is you
have to like yourself first.
My therapist doesn’t say this exactly,
but that’s the gist, as threatening
as a blade to the throat.
“Do you? 
Like yourself?”
he asks after I swallow.
There’s a painting on the wall
of an English fox hunt,
riders wearing sculpted caps,
white jodhpurs and red velvet
coats atop sleek horses.
“You’re not focusing. 
We can’t make any progress this way.”
Half a dozen hounds are in mid leap,
their tails curled like whips.
“Where’s the fox?” I ask,
searching the brush and barren road.
He checks his wristwatch, cellphone,
the air above my head iron hot.
I ask again, “Where’s the fox?”
He crosses his arms, screws up his face,
rocks back and forth in a leather swivel chair,
wants to know why I’m so worried about a fox
when I can’t even find enough courage
to look him in the eye
lie like I really mean it.

 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017



 
--RIGHT NOW ANYTHING WITH YOU WOULD BE BETTER THAN ANYTHING EVER

 
The Safe Play

I’m only nine
But my heart is
Already an old book
With a broken spine
Pages tattered and smeared
"Only stuck-ups and fags
Read poetry,” someone says
I look away, down at my shoes
With holes around big toes
Because it is always
The safe play
I pull out Ariel
Hold the volume to my face
Inhale the yeasty odor
Picturing a faulty oven
Saying, “Don’t do it.
If I can survive this
You can, too.”
 

 
Already Gone

Each morning
I take off my skin
Pluck out my eyes
Douse my brain
With lighter fluid
And set fire to my brain
It’s easier this way
The day gets started
But I’m already gone
I watch the bus
Pull up in a screech
Kids hop on
Most are tittering
About something
Said under breath
One says look what
I got for Christmas
Another says Christ
I’m glad I’m not that kid
The last one on says
Nothing, him mute
A buoy at sea you might
Cling to someday
When it seems dangerous
To do otherwise

 

Hereditary

Then grade school
The one safe place
When we studied genetics
DNA
How during conception
A helix of code
From each parent
Clenches together
Merges and melts to
Create their child
At a wooden desk
Absorbing this new knowledge
I started to shift
And shake
Hoping there was a way
To cleave the code
From beneath my chest
Even if with a
Rusted butter knife
There wasn’t one around
The sharpest thing
In the room
Was a number 2 pencil
Its lead a flat nub
But I used it anyway
The skin around
My wrist giving
Way stubbornly
Lead breaking off
Blood slow to leak
My teacher
Mrs. Marshall
Out of her seat
Cat-eyed glasses
Tilted to her
Forehead saying
Boy what the hell
Are you doing?

 

 

Monday, April 24, 2017



 
--YOU’VE BECOME THE CENTER OF EVERYTHING

 
…At some point over the weekend we crossed the 400,000 view mark on the blog.  Thank you for reading this thing where I share all my junk.  I’m genuinely humbled and flattered that you do.

 …Though I have lots more, it seems like the right day to take a break from posing poetry…

…I got some good news the other day that made me happy for all kinds of reasons.

Here’s the note that came via email:
 

Hi Len,

 So happy James Thomas and I are at the permissions stage of our W. W. Norton anthology.  Still more to go, but we’re getting there.  We love your work and are delighted to be including it in this collection.  I’M NOT SUPPOSE TO BE HERE AND NEITHER ARE YOU is one of those special books you keep hoping to find, and rarely do.  Great work, man—truly.
Below is a more formal, official letter we send out.  But wanted to send something more personal as well.
 Keep ‘em coming,
 Robert (Scotty)

Dear Len Kuntz

 James Thomas and I want to congratulate you for having your stories, “Lens” and “The Hard Dance” included in our forthcoming anthology: NEW MICROFICTION, to be published by W.W. Norton in the Spring of 2018.
They were chosen from thousands of stories considered.  We were delighted to see, in all our reading, how the form (a narrative work of fiction in less than 300 words) has evolved since W. W. Norton first published Flash Fiction then Micro Fiction, more than two decades ago…


…And here are some things I like on a  Monday.

-“I was going to make them rip the jersey off my back.” Phillies rookie Brock Stassi about his determination to make the majors despite being the 1,021st player taken in the draft and spending six seasons in the minors

-“You cannot exist for even 30 seconds on planet Earth without desiring something.  I use the word yearning with my students because it suggests the deepest level of desire.  Fiction is the art form of yearning.”

-“Every morning I go into a place within myself where it’s scary as hell, but there’s also wonderful stuff there.”-Robert Olin Butler

“To be an artist means to never avert your eyes.” Akira Kurosawa

-“I grew up in public schools in Australia.  My parents moved a lot, so I went to five different schools the first years of my education.  But every school had a music room and a music teacher.  Music was part of the curriculum, no different than English, Math or Science.  So I’ve been shocked that it’s started to be seen as a fringe subject that is expendable.” Keith Urban

-“Raise your words, not voice.  It is rain which grows flowers, not thunder.” Rumi

-"For attractive lips, speak words of kindness. For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people. For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry. For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day. For poise, walk with the knowledge that you'll never walk alone." Audrey Hepburn

-"I'm not happy, I'm cheerful. There's a difference. A happy woman has no cares at all. A cheerful woman has cares but has learned how to deal with them." Beverly Sills

-"Will and I could hardly wait for the morning to come to get at something that interested us. That's happiness." Orville Wright (1871 - 1948)co-inventor of the airplane

-For the world’s so dark without you,
And the moon’s turned down so low,
And I get so lonesome about,
Way in the night, you know.

--James Whitcomb Riley


Friday, April 21, 2017



--BUT SOMETIMES THERE’S MAGIC


 
Never Talk To Strangers

I’m like a bus depot well past midnight,
as desolate and lonely as that,
shadows splayed on cracked floor tiles,
ceiling fan stubbornly whirring,
fat man slumped on a stool, nodded off,
witchy woman wearing a viscose ratty bathrobe
arguing with a poster on the wall
that features a beautiful newborn.
I’m nine years old and already
I miss my youth, my parents,
though they’re both still alive.
I wonder what I’m going to become,
what I might have been,
but there’s no time for folly.
The bus bulls up, horn blowing
like a rhino with allergies
as I board, knobby knees shaking.
The driver asks where my bags are.
I don’t tell him I’m wearing them.
Instead I paint a sky blue smile,
already such a good showman,
and take the farthest seat in the back.

 

Lilliputian

I’ve become a reader
Gulliver’s Travels
Is my favorite
Those tiny people
With their own
Exotic island
It’s seems miraculous
Like hunks of gold
Scattered over an
Easter egg lawn
If they tied me down
I would not struggle
I’d simply ask
For their secret
How they make
Themselves so small
How it’s even possible
To conquer giants
With string and wood
Escape capture
Beat the big men
At their own game

 

The Screw

I am busy screwing and
Unscrewing the plastic cap
Of my Cola bottle
Parched and frightened
I tell myself what I saw
Wasn’t real, didn’t happen,
Parents do that to their children
But when Sis emerges
Her face blotchy
Ropes of sweaty hair
Swinging like wet branches
Out of breath
Eyes averted
I avert mine as well
Find a spider
In the ceiling corner
Spinning a web fastidiously
Plotting to ensnare victims
Who’ve done nothing
Wrong but be
In the wrong place
At the wrong time

 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


 
 
--WELCOME TO THE HALL OF FOSSILS
 

What Was Real, What Wasn’t
 

What Was

Ten kids
One trailer
Sex sounds
Parental nudity
Belts and hands on young skin
Fire, a universe of smoke
Runny chicken shit seeping down socks
Howling at the moon
Walking shirtless in the rain
Mayhem and murder
Birthdays that came and went
 Father’s Day card never sent
  discarded in the trash
Mother’s Day a regal event
 the biggest sham ever


What Wasn’t

False teeth
False eyelashes
Fake breasts
Assorted wigs
Monopoly money
Plastic silverware
Polyester blouses
Flocked Christmas tree
German Bible never touched
  white, big as wedding cake
Family portrait collecting dust
 on a vinyl shelf

 

Apothecary Jars

Sis learns the word apothecary
and becomes obsessed,
her cheeks glowing like a pair of fire stars.
“We’re trapped inside apothecary jars.
No one has them anymore.
They went out of style.”
The moon parts a seam
and leans in to eavesdrop
with its monocle eye.
Satan is close by, too,
waiting for inclusion.
“See, they think we’re the poison
in the apothecary jars.
Think about it. Think about it.
Think about it. Think…”
Sis rocks so hard
in the bunk below
that the four posters
moan and splinter.
“Shush,” I say. 
“They’ll bring the belt.”
“That’s what I’m saying,” Sis says.
“Think about it.  Think about
it. Think about it…”
I hop down and catch her shoulders
to stop the insane
back and forth motion.
Her eyes look like rotting berries
with a little bit of
leftover juice.
“You get it, right?”
Her smile is desperate,
the same one I’ll see tomorrow night,
the next night,
and the one after that
for all these years,
and each time I’ll
answer the same way:
“I do get it,”
though she’ll never
fully hear me,
rocking, just rocking
till a new dawn rises.

  

You See Him Dying

You see him dying,
naked for the first time,
hospital gown flapped
open like a broken swan,
then standing,
gown now looped
open in the back.
You wonder if that is
how your own ass looks,
scrawny, like a flat
bowl of skim milk
tricking gravity.
The penis you saw earlier--
a Swiss Army knife
with its blades tucked in--
resembles your cock at rest,
longish and two-toned,
no more than a bored
lizard when unaroused.
You wonder, too, if someday
you will beg a nurse
for help in order to “poop”
while your wordless son watches
without a clearly defined task,
confused as always
about what sharing the same
bloodline means,
if years of innocuous
estrangement can be
washed away so easily
when death raises
its fist to knock,
when there’s still
time for reconciliation
a brief talk,
the chance
to share misgivings.




Wednesday, April 12, 2017



 
--I WANT TO BE THE THING THAT HOLDS US TOGETHER

 
The Steady Drip


I’d been brave for once
Said something sharp to Mickey Purcell
Whose Dad used to burn cigarettes on him
Mickey always with a split lip and snarl
Spun me around in the school hall
Slamming my head against a concrete wall
At home I kneeled down
On the lawn puking yellow
The migraines came after that
Anything setting them off
The steady drip of a faucet
The Baker’s gurgling fish tanks
Concentrating too hard
Mom’s remedy was a chiropractor
After I went but continued to throw up
Hand numb, a sky of pinprick dots
Flooding my vision
Mom said Well that
Was a waste of eighteen dollars.
 

 
What’s In A Name

One day we
Renamed ourselves
Starting with the firsts
Then moving to
The tantalizing lasts—
Smith, Jones, Washington,
Morgan, Hamilton—
anything but our own.
we made ourselves
Rich, handsome and bold.
At dinner that night
We kneed each other
Under the table
And actually giggled.
Mom slammed a fork,
asked, What’s so funny?
Goddamn it, what?
No one would lie so I did
The only time I was
Smart enough to save us. 

 

Genuine

Mom is a clumsy bootlegger who has
run out of excuses, run out of men,
run out of children who feel safe around her.
Dad is a palsied gunslinger who has
missed the bullseye, missed the perched beer can,
missed everything he aimed at, but us.
We are taxidermied plush toys who have
learned how to lie, learned how bear pain,
learned that frauds are sometimes genuine, as well as evil.

 

 

Monday, April 10, 2017



--BURY ME HERE

 
Lonely Beluga

Today I’m a whale left wondering
why luck never swims my way,
why the boats bobbing on the surface
sail by so fast
as if everything should be done in a hurry.
I left the pod when I was young,
the ocean so vast,
a liquid universe
where it’s easy enough to hide
unless you’re my size.
The good thing about being huge is
the sharks don’t bother biting
and the other fish cower in my streaking shadow.
Another advantage is I can sing with a full throat,
off-key or not,
and no one will complain.
If I take the time to listen,
the sound will boomerang back to me,
and once in a while it will even
sound beautiful,
not a trace of sadness
in any note.

 

A History of Slapping

Once I said something
I don’t remember
to a redheaded girl
who went to the same
Pentecostal church
and she slapped me
near the anteroom
where babies got baptized.
In junior high school,
a black girl, Janine Green,
slapped me for something I said
that I don’t remember,
slapped me hard enough
that my nose bled.
I’ve been slapped
by my mother
plenty of times.
I remember the
reasons for those,
but still don’t
understand why.

 

At the Psychiatric Ward

The ceiling is spackled cream,
ruddy like cottage cheese.
Nail heads in the wood paneling
resemble cigarette burns,
though the ones in the carpet are wider.
I haven’t spoken for sixteen
hours and twelve minutes.
The TV is making a deal with us,
a noise box meant to
barricade the verbal slaughter
coming from a room down the hall.
All of us are self-medicating
in one form or another.
We may or may not
live through this.
When a pheasant flies
into the picture window,
leaving a slur of blood on the glass,
no one comments or
checks to see if its dead.
Hours later, the attendants
show up for dinner.
Roasted and plucked and sitting
on a platter in the middle of the table,
it’s hard to recognize the bird,
or realize how only a short time
earlier it had been so colorful.