Mouth Asylum

for [removed]

Table of Contents

Before The Fall
Rug Sale
Modern Ballad
Songs Like Us
Palm Reading
Yes After All
Unlearn’d Astronomer
‘Friend A’ Will Be My Accompanist

Blessing for Artists
You Some Kind of Holographic
Rift Mending & Nervous Endings
Hold You Only
Acres Apart
Western Cottage
My Horses

The day we met,
 I quit
 eating myself.

Before the Fall

Lion! Your mane is matted red,
you’ve gone and mussed it up again.

Anglerfish! You are spinning circles
chasing the bob of light between your eyes.

Human! You lack the filter to decipher
what’s room-ready, what’s mood-groomed,

you scratch your scalp and stick out your
tongue, always the amused one, pickling

yourself in mine. Look at you, loaded
and game-faced, crooning a crooked

song to flow through those who look
for their princess in the fortress —

not comprehending brick as brick
is, mortar as keeping-together,

facade of it scuffed with tartar.
Human… you plummet again

through the crevasse, wide enough for two,
until you learn that flossing gets you

one blood-letting closer to the kingdom.
Always the intentional alternative,

another move as antidote for sinking,
the perfect, exact, some inevitable next,

the dulcet modes of persisting.
Like sparklers spitting as you roll,

human, you cling to your twin signifiers:
honesty, and what comes before the fall.

Rug Sale

Browsing the bizarre
stall after technician
finished looking
through my bones,

lingering on the green,
blue and crimson patterns,
touching shredded tassels
of bourgeois ground

thinking of a life
in which we
drop $700
simply for a canvas
we can walk across.

Modern Ballad

Post-isolation, Dave met his match — 
Heidi was grateful for someone to latch.
They said some things quite publicly
and together scrounged for property.

Promising their fervid testimonial
would not descend into a chimerical
quest, they agreed they would raise
the best and lavish them genuine praise.

What you take beyond costs nothing
but to remain you must make a living.
They held cabinet meetings over how to eat
while the kids belched Olly Olly Oxen Free!

Finicky years passed with no room to quit,
the darkest days guided by Heidi’s wit.
This did not assuage Dave’s concern,
the happy wage could not be earned.

A sea of books, or digital sprawl:
He knew they should have it all.
He strove to win the intra-marital war
of I can give more, I can give more.

Heidi trusted him — the less they said,
more doubt swelled inside Dave’s head.
Unfit for the demand of a nuclear family,
he quietly took out an insurance policy.

Purpose twists and beckons.
Dave slipped and, relieving his pension,
snapped his neck on their wooden fence.
At last, they lived well off the interest.

Songs Like Us

The songs we like
don’t make us cry
or — we shed our
lives — no compromise.
No composition
of sunrise to whet
the spirit, or
daisy-chain of dimples
to admire — no.
We harden:
iron hand in iron
hand, hanging
our sanity
on scalding wire
as if hope’s retaliation,
getting our digs

dug in.
Maybe not,
and each song grips
as we fall, untwists
the root, gives
cause for continuing.
The songs we like
empty us
of leaving.


Another year hangs the ornaments too early.
Itching to celebrate, we thought poison oak

would make a nice stocking stuffer, so wrong
we were. The tree looks reasonably happy.

Though we punched holes in the calendar, thinking
butterflies would fly from the void and melt

into our mouths like friendly kisses, our tongues
make no sound but the jilted click of undercut

prosperity. We waded through a narrow river
to cut down decades of growth, reaching

past sleet mesh to splinter some handles.
We should have never left the house. Stirring

steamy beverage, soaking in bath-salt tinsel,
sending supply package after supply package

to violent epicenter of trouble. I turn red
from scratchy fabric, a renegade elf refusing

new identification. Sleeping on sandpaper
to whittle my shoulder-blades into box-cutters.

The snow melts into rain over masquerade,
a smoky, festive scent. The bridge of my nose

shatters beneath weight of such deep drags.
Loaning thanks to banks for their surplus trimmed,

pupils dilate to ease passage through the mountain.
At the top of the tree: a golden tarp tucks itself.

Tough call, which way to believe. When to pop zits
or when to desiccate an out-of-place poplar.

This flavor of fame tastes like a locked room.
Mount antlers too quickly, hear strings

tremble through walls as a wail escapes
from the stag my language grazed.

One drop of maroon floods the fir.
It’s dark, darker each ride through slush,

thinking of the prism that redirected us
when we hardly held each other’s names.

Filling my crown with sanguine metal,
scrambling circuits of joy-machine,

feel asbestos wheezing. Stick with me
if silence is your fire-place. Poke the ashes,

expect some deity to emerge, fall asleep
waiting for an afterthought ambulance.

Palm Reading

Your palm
is my favorite poem,
every line and indentation
a private revelation,
an archive unknown.

Yes After All

Eyebridge lifts drawing out the fever,
stepping from squall of thinly-veiled visions.
So begins anxious jostling of daily lever,
recovering still from delight’s incision.
Flesh flowers and constellated teeth
lodged in the peripheries, walls of normalcy
a-crumblin’. Functionally bunk as a wreath.
Traversing through open mouths with no itinerary,
terrified of moisture in motion, of every shift
stuck in transition, of your hot liquefied eye,
tramping my path through blank snowdrifts,
consenting to another day, content with the lie.
If death springs from the melting aperture,
hope it takes these thoughts of us together.


I rise with the tide. Turning quick
on the globe, drowning in cyclonic

logic. Lately estimates turn vaporous
before even being shelved. I rummage

through doubt, combing akimbo strands.
No amount of looking in the mirror

turns you into a hero. Else it would be year
of the ghost, whenever it likes. Which driver

drove out the darkness? No development
glimpsed beneath bandages. Those without

homes get evicted from riverbank, weathered
orange encampment must’ve gotten tangled

with sleek burgeoning expansion, bridging
one cluster of technic centers to the next.

Nearby, elementary school teaches refugees,
gets tagged by violent graffiti. Little ones

walk to school in a procession as security
reinforces hallways, peeling their eyes.

Choking on gimlet acts of courage summons
inner rider to trample root which snagged

my foot, claiming revenge that only festers.
The weather readjusts. Noting pearly wind

streaking gusts through segregated streets,
particles of imminent wave hound the brain,

buckling under persistent pressure system,
cornered at last in the eye, ritual shriek

of exhaustion, bracers holding back
gush of torpid fluid. Even in leisure

reality forfeits circuits which leaks
a little concern. Scalding water gives

asking price for my ransom. I reach
toward nozzle, like reaching for the face

of a lover licked by candlelight, never
escaping water. Water floods the farms,

will not be conciliatory. I wake water. Go
water mailbox. Carry water to over-watered

wasteland. Though all water, some of us
wetter. So — as walls swelled to splintering,

and vices pried open every latent scar,
at what point did you see me waving?

Unlearn’d Astronomer

Picture a night-sky

the fingernails
of the planets
stream past,

a procession
of flaked

a ring of dust,

a stucco’d mobile,

keeping the
whirling cosmos
in its cradle,

magnifying the
small distance
between us,

we are much closer
than believed.

‘Friend A’ Will Be My Accompanist

Leaves are seized by wind,
mark of autumn’s denouement.
Wonder if my words will reach

when they only seem to float away,
hoping their intricate weight translates.
Daffodils emerge in the margins.

Your signature runs with the rain,
trailing ink like a black-sea firework.
I am so close to speaking again.

Cataracts stick to sheet music,
curtain falls — thick, stagnant chord.
Symphony of grim telegnostic

pleads: never end.
In the empty space, words corral
into place like cold black keys,

flooding the breach — 
fingers pluck stems
reaching down into graves.

This is what flies
from my piano,
so many fugitive shades.

only taste
on my tongue
is better, better, better.

Blessing for Artists

Bless self-appointed arbiters of beauty.
Perennial spring we inhabit, bless our lives.
Bless every peace-maker in the after/before.
Every brave silhouette, bless.

Love unusual utterance, love audience undeterred.
Bless expression undressing its meaning.
Love exaggerated touch, love exasperated look.
Bless panoramic snapshot proliferating.

For anyone who cries at the crack of an egg,
for anyone who has competed with the sun,
for anyone lost for words at the family reunion,
your solace — a bubbling reservoir.

Bless implosion and explosion.
Bless the god-catchers in their silk pajamas.
Bless bedraggled, unalienable artifacts.
Bless technicolor tantrums for sale.

Broken windows beside blessed murals.
Whoever overrides impulse with craft, bless.
Whoever supplants craft with impulse, bless.
Shaken spirits rise to shatter indifference.

Bless force for change and vain reflection,
brush away feats and external markings.
Bless omnivorous eyes framing the next feast.
Expression disproving death — bless.

You Some Kind of Holographic

Refracting spectral shivers, fraying
not at the edges, with no protective

sleeve handy except memory, light
bounces gently off knee, scatters

into giddy-up destinies, reflecting
what’s best. Colossal odds never

collided with propriety. Statistics bodied
by linguistics. Peering over edge

of sleep, seeing ocean-swept rays
steer the ship transporting volatile

fate, never guaranteed or even likely.
Adrift for days wondering how cells

were compelled to meet at the rendezvous,
establishing you. This sort of rarified

grace topples insufficient recollection,
your limited-edition visage defies

collection, make no mistake my intentions,
though scattered and unsure, reconvene

to craft this hieroglyphical mirror
cracked with the colors of my eyes,

so you might see how dazzling, elegantly
distorted, how disarmingly radiant

your vessel, a-flutter with sky-glitter,
your smile a window through rainbow.


Call it inconclusive.
Call it intrusive or improper.
These sarcophagi are only for show.

Keep what strikes your fancy.
Throw out what complicates.
Ignore these wriggling worms.

Call it a necessity.

Rift Mending & Nervous Endings

never been a prettier fool as when I fastened
a thread around your unwary finger & walked
the other way, looking back at every traffic light
seeing red, red, red left with nothing rattling ‘cept
thoughts of myself as bread, how easy it would be
to rise. sequestered by a pesky sketch of our agonist
friend the antagonist, a lil’ scuffed round the edges
but still me alright. it’s an embarrassing proposition
you’re holding but it glints a little if you mold its form
to your liking. I I I came here looking for answers
but got swaddled by these binds of confidence
chewed down to their inevitable rinds. my voice
has not been working. it says too much, or blossoms
all the wrong conclusions. from eye’s rise to mind’s
set dragging positively behind. fixing the race beneath
a burdensome sun. is this the sumo that begins
a frenzied swim through sweat-soup? is this smell
of a fire caught before engulfing everything tried
& truncated? how could I bear to affect you? let me
back up. I I I have been holed up in a lullaby drinking
tea desperate for you you you to look at me never
so serious yet never that kidding, just doing my story’s
bidding. smelling winter flowers, smashing good behavior
into kindling. chest is closing so let me speak straight:
you were the stranger that orchestrated my trembling.
your words, awash with purpose, most humbling
prophecy & because there is a stunning probability
that you will drift away I I I am swallowing the replay
& spitting out that I adore your way-in-this-world,
your chewed nails & warm intrepid voice,
so much that I don’t know which I fear more,
that you suspect me or that you might forget me.







Hold You Only

You move me
at once closer yet
spiraling, lighting
abandoned sconces
with your baubles
of lucid fire. Lips
twinge and desist,
unwrapping resolve.
I swear, your stare
dishevels my mettle,
displaces disposition,
makes a mockery out of
distance, discontinues
any notion of wading
through life dissatisfied.
Gratitude doesn’t cut
deep enough.
You move me to blush,
blather and vault toward
a rush of untenable
heights, all with
the softest push
to the small of my back,
and if there is ever
a way to repay, send me
the price in writing,
for when we are close
there is nothing we need
to say.

Acres Apart

It would be a shame,
for the dinner bell
to ring unanswered

because you were out
so far in the fields.
I told you, I told you,

the harvest is coming soon,
but you said, 
not soon, not soon enough.


Kindness! You are my kind of affliction,
even though you wait in diffident vain.

Assemble a crack team to stitch dissolved
decisions back together. I think the problem,

one advisor says, is that you are always
looking at what isn’t there — what hasn’t yet

hatched, embedded, you venture to make room
for. Holding carbon copy of proposed constellations

with back welded to floor, some foreign floppy
disk gets rejected by discerning soft palette. Drifts

of powdered quiet tickle the nose. Met with
another sun-cycle of trickling information,

finding no stamp of guarantee. Fasten straps
over snapped branches to let mountain-melt

whisk you downstream. Where waiting rewards
no owl but stuffs morning’s mouth with grisly

treats. Where waiting rewards no photographer
but scissors the time-lapse into cross-generational

paper-dolls. Waiting never worked for courtiers
grinning & bearing through bells & whistles,

peppering courtyard with topiaries:
a king-sized bed, a barge, a prickly throne,

each manicured reminder of a mystery
cut short. Pity those who think you need

a partner to become a better lover.
If ever we find the verve to cross this gulch,

thank guile of some smiling bard, setting
the table with tremulous hands.

Western Cottage

A strip of ponderosa bark,
etched with a whisper of what
I could not say, tripped me
while sleepwalking past where
you were making the sound
of shivering with pebbles
and glass.

M y Horses

I can only assume the horses died well,
considering the smoke coming from the stable,
and the smell of charred leather. Branches point
toward the distance, where the graveyard grass
recedes. Early-song dew dampens my hair
while voices laugh deep inside the mine.

The horses were never mine.
I drink, keeping down sediments from the well
for my iron deficiency. I spit out hair
that winds up in my mouth, feigning stable
trajectory and lying in the grass
once the sun has set behind the mountain’s point.

A sign with chipped paint points
up ahead, where a great stone blocks the mine.
Red deltas course slowly through the grass,
spilling downhill and filling up the well.
A rose-ring on a finger-stem — ashes, ashes in the stable.
My devastation kept prisoner by hair.

I dreamt I was drowning in a stream of hair.
The torched straw was melted down to a point,
and in that chamber I found that stable
was just a garment, a spectacle of mine,
an infantile thought raised so well.
I dreamt I was swimming in a sea of red grass.

Slit your tongue with a blade of grass,
stem the bleeding with a mop of horse-hair.
I hoped we might ride together, but knew well
that one of us would be sidestepping the final point — 
nothing ever leaves or enters the mine.
Desire burned up with the stable.

I see no reason to build another stable
for things that ought to be free, tearing up grass,
galloping, galloping far from whatever’s mine.
Like a fatal sunset, I saw your hair
go up in smoke, extinguishing the point
with darkness, rupturing the well.

Thoughts sprout like grass beneath hair,
never straight, stable or quick to the point.
I mine the air for hints that I am well.


Thank you whoever lent me their ear,
for talk big or small.

Thank you to those I have met
in these past few months.

Thank you for inspiring me.

Thank you for reading.

kaleb (worst)