Category Archive The Kuzma Files

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

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

A prayer released

From my lips the prayer is released.
I watch it go up on something like angel wings
riding wherever the wind takes it,
but always climbing,
rising through a patch of clouds
and up into thin, cold air
through the blue
until the blue turns black
entering a fiery barricade and finally passing out into the glare of stars
giving way to darkness
more darkness
until suddenly everything turns bright
goes gold
into … a presence
singing voices
gathered around a throne
creatures worshiping
attending to the source
then over them
where it enters the creator
where he weighs my supplication
and decides whether to grant it blessing
or in its denial, lead me to deeper surrender.
My prayer released from these lips
all the way to His hearing.

ByKevin Kuzma

Safe beneath my tree

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

Poor penmanship

Better than a padlock
or security alarm
is the garbled handwriting
with which I keep my journals.
Printed in faint pencil lead,
the words go
from margin to margin,
(crossover margins)
to the edge
of the notebook page.
Front and back,
the hard-pressed words
push through
to the other side
of the paper.
My dreams lean
on blue lines.
Each entry
gives confession.
Each entry
arranged by date.
You are welcome
to come read
them sometime.
You are welcome
to try
to make them out.
But you can’t.
They are hand-written
with intent.
A soul poured out
on paper
yet still cannot be read.
Any decent writer knows:
you give it all away,
day after day.
But there is that one bit
no one can get at.
No one can reach.
You keep it for yourself,
whether it is worth something
or not.

ByKevin Kuzma

On the way somewhere

Ahead, a car flinches as its brake lights slam red.
From nowhere, a hawk comes gliding across the country highway.
First, the two northbound lanes.
Then, the median of dead grass.
Then, the southbound lanes.
And finally, over to the bare tree branches at the edge of the wood.
The branches bend under its weight as it flutters its wings closed and finds its perch.
In a moment, the ruckus is over and the traffic immediately resumes its rush.
I drive on, my mind still in the tree branches and open air with the hawk,
looking down on the strange flow of machines.
Unbridled by laws, by lanes, by time.
Wild and free from the rest of us animals.

ByKevin Kuzma

Drive down to Wichita

On the drive down to Wichita:
The last dead days of February beginning to blossom.
Rolling prairie and mounded hills ready to green.
The surviving winter birds and the first of spring circle over bare trees.
Road going on and on, the entire countryside fenced into fine squares.
So many times I’m drawn to pull over and walk into it all.
Sun-covered hills and not a soul in sight.
Just passing cars and diesels and trucks, going and going to someplace.
I think about Ginsberg and his poetry reading in Wichita.
Pass the home of William Allen White.
The prairie is full of great poets.
The words are riding on the clouds and thick in dusty wind gusts.
I roll down my window and let them glide through my fingers.
No one wants to read anything real anymore.
No one wants to read truth.
In comes the arm and up goes the window.
I have caught enough words.
The last poet on the plains.

ByKevin Kuzma

Found upon a hike

On a hike this afternoon, I came across this man standing alone on the prairie, painting a line of trees. I found it odd because until that point on my walk, I could hear gunshots and the occasional explosion on the surrounding properties from farmers taking target practice. I suppose when the time comes, there are those who will grab their guns and head into the fray. And others who will retreat into the woods, paint, write, tell stories, love our kids, and sit the revolution out.

ByKevin Kuzma

The Wisest Man in the City

Street preacher.

The wisest man in the city
carries his belongings in a trash bag
and wears a Rasta tam.

He has the world solved.
Corruption, corporate slavery,
racism: He knows a better way.

With the confidence of a mega-church preacher,
he launches into a flawless summary
of Christian theology.

The vacant warehouses behind him
are his backdrop and the crumbling asphalt
beneath him his pulpit.

He compares the major world religions –
what he’s learned through his studies.
Admits his fondness for the Apostle Paul.

“The only way a man writes that well
about love is to have it revealed to him
through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

But as he speaks, the workman’s gloves
and layered shirts he wears on a perfect day
undermine his words.

Ragged clothes, tired eyes and thin frame
betray his losses in this life
and the real battles he faces.

“They’re always trying to get me
to do drugs out here,” he says.
“I’m not stupid. I don’t want to die.”

The sermon ends there.
The wisest man separates himself
from the hustlers and losers.

The wisdom he possesses
while ideal for survival
damns him to understand his lot.