166.1: Christopher Kennedy:: Love Poem for People Who Hate Themselves: Folk Tale & Love Poem for People Who Hate Themselves: Like Any Other Planet & Love Poem for People Who Hate Themselves: The Ruckus & Love Poem for People Who Hate Themselves: Quarantine 166

These prose poems by Chris Kennedy come from a place of terror and beauty. Their speaker is both depraved and deprived; he indulges the companies of the flesh and makes due with little. In doing so, these prose poems reflect our contradictory natures, our failure to reason when instincts are clearly failing us. The title of this series alone elicits this; they are “Love poem[s] for people who hate themselves.” In an America that is internationally embroiled in wars against faceless enemies (be they against drugs or terror), Kennedy’s vignettes focus on the war within, where the stakes are much larger and the payoffs are far more beautiful and tragic.

For instance, in “Love Poem for People Who Hate Themselves: The Ruckus,” the banality of evil is everywhere around the speaker. He witnesses a “soulless” man “lifted up by a front loader from his accidental grave” and walks “through long grasses with Ronnie and watch[es] his brother shoot him with a flaming arrow.” The Ruckus in this poem is the capacity to suffer; it represents what one can endure in this life to its end. Ask Stevens, ask Auden, or ask Williams what poetry represents, and all three identify the necessity of poetry to help us endure life. What, one may ask, is the payoff of such endurance? Kennedy’s poems remind us that beauty is both the byproduct and the process of suffering, that we may “think of those abandoned hours with fondness...our animal hearts thrumming inside us, as we lay beneath the bone-white serious of the moon.” Cody Todd

Love Poem for People Who Hate Themselves: Folk Tale


I ran down the highway’s yellow lines in my sleep last night. When I woke up, your skin was a desert with no oasis. When I was a boy, the crack of the barber strap used to wake me up, but someone stole it and threw it on the roof of the Brown & Jewel.

My mother said my father lost his paycheck in a poker game and came home and cried at her feet. I colored eggs that Easter like a fool. I fed a horse some grass and another boy lost his finger. The Lord works in mysterious ways, but it all adds up.

Once I dreamed the ace of spades was a dagger.




Love Poem for People Who Hate Themselves: Like Any Other Planet


I knew your zip code. I saw Austin and I liked it. I stood outside the 7-11, shirtless, drinking alone. I could go as far as any other man, though my conveyances were limited to public means of transportation. Sometimes it was light and sometimes it was dark. You know, good days, bad days. I saw the desert through the window of a Greyhound bus. It looked like any other planet where pain is the only feeling, but there were cacti blooming some kind of flower that may have been pink. Do you believe me? I opened a book to make an impression, but no one took a glance. The seat beside me was always empty. The driver never stopped. I always thought he was headed your way.




Love Poem for People Who Hate Themselves: The Ruckus


I saw the ghost and the ghost’s shadow, but never did I see the dead man who made them. I didn’t believe in the family curse or the vengeful God. I knew my way past the swamp at night with my eyes closed. I was chased by the one they call The Ruckus, but I’ve never been caught yet. I rode my bike when I heard the siren and saw a man lifted up by a front loader from his accidental grave. I don’t know if there’s such a thing as a soul, but he didn’t have one. I walked through long grasses with Ronnie and watched his brother shoot him with a flaming arrow. You could grow potatoes in his ears, they said. He learned to play the drums and drowned in the reservoir at sixteen. Now he’s throwing snowballs at cars in Hell. The Ruckus beats his ass for eternity. Can’t say about Heaven. That place caters to a different sort.




Love Poem for People Who Hate Themselves: Quarantine


I grieve the hours we spent in a shadow-strewn room where silk scarves dangled from the bedposts. I launched my body against yours in an amphetamine frenzy, passionate and useless, as the basement filled with rain, and the smell of dampness told us our fate was mold, our future toxic, triggering the slow dissolve, the aperture reduction, the merciful fade into reason.

Now our bodies sleep apart as if quarantined on different ships, our fevers the same, their sources separate. Every moment is a trespass of the past, a circus of want in a barren wilderness of need.

And though I will die this way in a cheap suit of regret and failure, I think of those abandoned hours with fondness, though our expressions were not the expressions of the creatures we wished to be, our animal hearts thrumming inside us, as we lay beneath the bone-white seriousness of the moon.