Episode 101

The birds scream in my ear until the windows rattle with echo. I’ve tried to tell you before.

My head is a tunnel where the body learns hollow. Learns pendulum. Learns to swing wide

open like this room. I need an axis. I mean, access to care. Did I say room? I meant arms.

Its funny. The posture of punch and hug begin the same. I mean, every embrace begins with

the potential for harm. Maybe every enemy’s intention is peace until the fear intervenes,

but patience has never been my strength, and I throw a mean fastball. Right hook. Whatever

my hands do, it’s always bloody. Self defense or a little knick of the knife. I only hurt myself. 

What’s all the screaming about? What do birds have to be so upset about anyway? Gravity

most likely drives them insane. Imagine it. An invisible hand in the back of your throat, the 

bottom of your belly, insisting it can translate weather, teach you to speak sky. All you have

to do is agree to puppet. Agree to be hollow. Take the pills. Fly little flute. Little swallow.

I never knew you spoke fever. Remain perfectly calm. The curtains are whispering. About you. 

Like the voices that take up space in the walls. Who knew voices could be so big? Is this

paranoia? Depression? I should go sing the veins, I should go and run to the heart. You still

need this. Need me. This breath you take for granted will be here in the morning. You

selfish prick. Think you’re so important you must be the most worthless person alive. Maybe

you shouldn’t be so eager to breathe. Think your diagnosis is existence. Your ego is as big

as their words, isn’t it? Words they spill into wounds like baking powder and vinegar to

explain this explosion. What is it with doctors and big words? Did you know there is such

a thing as the fear of big words? Some asshole named it Hippopotomonstrousesquipadalophobia.

Who decides this shit? Can’t they just say crazy? In need of a good bolt of lightning.

The echo is back. Maybe its only my own voice. This flat E faltering. Keening. Know what

that is? The sound of my blood slowing down. Happens every time. Fetal birds, now I think

of it, have this shell for protection. Is that what you would call this place? Hospital shell.

Call it something else. I don’t feel very protected. In fact, don’t speak. Just listen. You know,

toilets sing if you listen. Its depressing, like Baroque violins, but wetter. My ears want to

name it. The doctors want to name it. We place such importance on names, but  what would

you call them? The shapes formed from morning fog on the window. Ghosts? Breath trying

to remember its form? Clouds spooning for warmth? What’s wrong with wanting to lie down

and feed the grass. To feel the roots seek comfort in your body, the way your uncle once did. 

Why is that so hard to believe? Because I was not bathing in my shell? Not a girl? You 

should know better than anyone doctor. Sick men have sick hands have spiders for digits. 

Sometimes the fingers have to be excused. I mean excised. I mean who in their right mind 

would believe a psycho courts spiders? Harms children with his eyes. Is this why depression? 

Is this whybirds shit in their cages while slamming the bars with their bodies? Their rage?

Feathersbloody in the violence of their fall. Bulletins beat against glass with urgent beaks. 

S.O.S. Its almost morning. S.O.S. Save our sorry asses. The sun keeps going down with a promise

to come back. S.O.S. What is this, glass? It’s almost morning. A long time ago something happened. 

I didn’t catch what you said. The birds were too loud. I’m not looking for anything long term. 

Just a night or two. To calm down. I mean look at me. I just need a good

night’s rest. A place to practice my swing. My smile is a pendulum. Catch it if you can. 



Aren’t We Limber

There is a whale in the sky

as big as nine school buses.

Three deep, and three wide.

Maybe this is God. Probably

not. Maybe it is

the whale from Douglas

Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide

on its way to becoming

flowerpot. Or maybe it is

proof the sky is another

ocean and the only thing

separating the waters is

our narrow understanding

of space. Wouldn’t that

make us, all of us,

Moses? Moseses?  

Parting the waters with

a gesture of our hands.

One pressed to the underbelly

of the whale, one planted

in the loamy soil where

our footprints are remembered.

If we stand like this, a flag

made flesh, made ribbon

with wear, maybe we can claim

some happiness in our own

names. As tired as we may

grow in the ribs from watering

the ground with our sweat,

weren’t we beautiful? Don’t we

deserve to be bronzed by

the weather, kept in the garden

near water? A memorial to

our efforts to swim with meteors,

make home in a space

between the oceans.


Zachary Kluckman, the National Poetry Awards 2015-2016 Slam Organizer of the Year and 2014 Slam Artist of the Year, is a Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Gold Medal Poetry Teacher, Red Mountain Press National Poetry Prize recipient and a founding organizer of the 100 Thousand Poets for Change program, now recognized as the largest poetry reading in history. Kluckman has appeared multiple times at the National And Individual World Poetry slams and tours the nation as a spoken word artist. He serves as Spoken Word Editor for the Pedestal magazine and has authored three poetry collections.