Category Archive The Kuzma Files

ByKevin Kuzma

School note

My mother sent me to school with a note that I carried in my pocket but didn’t read. I knew it had something to do with the medicine that I was supposed to take before lunch. I felt everyday like I couldn’t swallow and that I might throw up. This happened each morning, right before lunch. At some point I started taking chewables with me, and I remember the flimsy plastic packaging and how thin it felt in my pocket. I’d chew up a tablet and wash it down with a low stream of cold water from the mouth of the drinking fountain, and then off to lunch I’d go. The tablets never helped. They tasted like rotten milk and left a terrible chalk coating on my tongue. I remember that first day I took my medicine, I was walking through the lunch line and I made it to the cafeteria window where they handed out meal trays. Two teachers were standing there, looking at a folded-up piece of paper. One of them was my teacher, and I remember her laughing until she turned around and saw me. Whatever the note my mother had written said, my teacher had shared it with another teacher, and they were laughing at the contents. I’m sure it described my upset stomach, maybe gas pains, and maybe asked her I could leave the classroom if I needed to use the restroom. When my teacher saw me, her smile disappeared in the laughter stopped. She was embarrassed for herself, not me. I can only imagine how she would feel now if she knew I remembered. I can only imagine what that note said. I wish I’d read it. I wish the anxiety wasn’t still here.

ByKevin Kuzma

Two pills

Before I go to bed, I take two pills. One for my blood, the other for my peace. Tiny, little white shapes. One a circle, the other and oval. I know not which does what, but when they run out, I dial the number on the bottle and refill the prescription. I listen to the automated voice, follow the prompts, punch in the prescription number, and in a few days they give me a brown-orange bottle at the drive-thru. I hand them a plastic square and then they hand it back. Tell me it’s all paid for. More peace, more health, for another month.

ByKevin Kuzma

Baby clothes

With the same gentleness that she would handle an infant, she folded the baby clothes and set them on the shelf. She was kneeling in the back of the store as I pushed by with my cart. I looked back over my shoulder to see if she was a customer or an employee. She wore beige pants and a blouse, but no store vest. Someone had been rifling through the new clothes, that were no bigger than both her hands, and left them that way for the other customers. I watched her hold up each onesie, high, fold the shoulders back, and with a gentle flip, hold the bottom behind the other half, and set them down on the shelf –carefully, one after another, as though she were organizing the dresser drawers in her own nursery. My shopping cart had almost come to a full stop, but I decided it best to move on and stop staring over my shoulder. I couldn’t tell if she was an expectant mom, but what I could see of her shape made me doubt it. She clearly had her own kids, or maybe this extreme care was part of her lifelong wish for them. Maybe she’d lost a baby at some point, or maybe she was shopping for her daughter or her son with the gentle daydreams of a future grandmother–though she didn’t look the age. Whatever brought out her care, I could feel her heart in the way she handled these clothes that some day soon would be worn by babies she’d never know. That kind of gentleness has become nearly extinct, particularly for strangers. None of the mom’s who made their way to this section of this department store would realize the deliberate love she showed in this simple act. Instead, they would find everything neat and in order, this woman’s silent and anonymous contribution to new souls arriving in our world.

ByKevin Kuzma

Asking directions

I walked out onto Main leaving a happy hour at this pretentious bistro when a woman pulls up to the sidewalk. “Do you know how to get to Atchison from here?” Her accent was distinctly British and with only a glimpse of her over my shoulder, I already felt a strange enticement. I walked closer. The car was like an old station wagon beat to hell. She was leaning across the passenger seat to the window, smiling. The backseat was filled with a couple luggage bags, but mostly large empty canvases, an easel, and art supplies. I couldn’t believe how beautiful she was in a simple t-shirt and shorts. Her skin was deep-tanned, and from the play of the afternoon sun with the shadows inside her vehicle, her green eyes were backlit crystal fires looking up at me. The words in my head said, “Of course, I’ve actually been to Atchison. It’s a long drive from Kansas City. I’m not sure how to tell you to get there so I would need to ride along with you if you want.” But instead I said, “No I’m not sure how to tell you.” By then some other men had come out of the same place and heard us talking. An older man gave her directions and she drove off, slowly, toward the interstate ramp. I put my hands in my pockets and walked the way I was headed.

ByKevin Kuzma

Barren field

Stripped clean from its crop, the field lies flooded and completely bare to torrential rains. The downpour started sometime in the early hours and has continued steadily, all day, drowning the rivulets where the soybeans were harvested when winter came on. This is how January dies and the worst month of all steps in. A sweeping, sodden day that even the melancholy who normally sit by windows and worship overcast skies find a bit too gray and depressing for their liking. Across the field, only the rooftop peaks of a few brand new homes can be seen, like manmade mountain caps in the distance. At least the temperature is bearable. At least I have someplace warm to sleep. My bed, barren, like this field, stripped of a woman. Stripped of love and the warmth of someone who can save me from the deluge.

ByKevin Kuzma

Next morning

It’s the next morning
Still half drunk from two $9 bottles of wine

I left the liquor store with a brown bag supply
about the same time I woke up today
How many failed husbands
waiting at that register
How many scorned wives

The sun has come around again
on us all
I’m lying naked on the electric blanket
set to lukewarm
listening to live applause from a music hall
recorded four years
before I was born

a woman left a painting on my doorstep
with a note attached to the back
But I slept through it
Luckily it didn’t blow away like a leaf
I brought it inside
faced it backward
toward the wall
without looking at the art

My days of racehorse running
feel like they’ve come to an end
Blinds rolled up to the ceiling
keep me safe from the death of the day

Someone will find me here
“Man, alone in his room”
a painting of its own

Words fresh on my lips
tongue still forming the consonants and vowels
My scale won’t matter then
Neither will my wardrobe
My poems
Or the smile I paid for

ByKevin Kuzma

Drifting in the window

Tonight I’m going to leave my window open. Maybe she will float in on the breeze. Or maybe I will freeze to death first. 49 degrees and rain predicted. Maybe she’ll find me lying on my bed, cold, in damp sheets. She’ll lay her body across me. Line all her parts up with mine. I imagine there would be a height difference. Women always want a taller man, and I never see myself standing on my tip-toes to kiss a woman. Her body will breathe life into mine. The first forceful heartbeat, breaking through the death in my chest. My lungs filling up with their first air. Me, becoming aware of her. I have dreamed and dreamed of her and this moment. Now, here she is. Drifted in through the curtains. All the ideals I’ve developed about beauty and what I want from my lover, what I will give back, mulled over and run through my mind countless times. And now, here she is. She found me, by fate. Lying on top of me. I don’t care what she looks like, what she’s like, or how she found me. She’s just … here. All the romance drains from the picture in my head. How could it not now that we are both awake? 

ByKevin Kuzma

Dangling innocence

Lying on my back
on the picnic table
in my grandparents’ backyard
I used to sing to the birds
in the high branches
of the catalpa tree
My grandparents called it the cigar tree
because of the long,
arching pods
that dangled from
the limbs
These appeared as though
you could pluck them
take a lighter to them
and smoke them
but I never tried
Their backyard
was almost all shade
with a little sunshine
for a courtyard area
and a brick fireplace
But I kept to the shade
that filtered the sunlight
and created a shimmer
when the wind blew the branches
It was almost like being underwater
at the bottom of a clear ocean
or fish tank
Sunlight shimmering
Leaves turning over white
in the breeze
I sang and sang
whistle after whistle
to the singing birdies
maybe the only walking creature
who paid them any attention
or realized they were there
I felt safe
and never once dreamed
the birds might swoop down
afraid of the interloper
interrupting their song
and peck at my eyes
my neck
anywhere that frightens or hurts
I never once dreamed
someone I didn’t know
might come walking out of the backwoods
and find me there
no more than 5 years old
blue eyes
and try to take me home
A little boy
dangling innocence
from the cigar tree

ByKevin Kuzma

Message from a former lover

This one came
not in glass bottle
not washed up to
not hand-written
not whispered
not with scream, followed by door slam
not radio waves
not satellite redirect
This once came rendered
much anguish
transmitted by
broken heart
through spirit
sent along the invisible cord
that forever links
two people who lived
lives together
shared a bed
and other intimacies
I felt it come to me
in that unexplainable way
arriving months after
our most recent
No salutation needed
“I hope this message finds you well.
I reach out with much trepidation
due to how we interact with each other,
which can be hurtful.
From my point of view,
I am over-desiring a romantic relationship
with you 100%.
I often think of you
and how you might ruin my life
and waste my time
some more
but as friends only.
No sex.
Please, text or call.
I miss our arguments
and general distaste for one another.
Sincerely, Lover 3,671
My response
is forthcoming

ByKevin Kuzma

Remorseless destroyer

Drown their armies!
The big ants
moving in the tree bark
Running in and out
of the creases
Hiding in the shadows and
then breaking out into the light
I’d run and grab the hose
off the guest house
My grandparents called it
the Little House
And I’d pick them off
with the trigger sprayer
Splashing then into the air
I’d stuff the hose
down into their hill houses
and flush them all out
Up they’d come, black
like a sudden oil geyser
spilling out into the bare spots
where the tree shade
murdered the grass
I was sadistic
their destroyer
their maker, for all they knew
filling up their tunnel system
with the great flood
I never got tired of it
I’d attack, usually weekday mornings
when my grandparents watched me
the wild blonde boy
I must have seemed like the reaper
to those ants, bringing
Lost souls everyday
I would play
until my grandfather
rapped on the back window
That meant to turn the hose off
the water bill was running high
I’d turn off the water and
wrap the hose back up
The innocent, blonde-headed
blue-eyed boy
Pure evil
The conqueror of
a million-strong