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Yorick || Joshua Kleinberg




I have reheated a lasagna from Famiglia—

official pizzeria of The New York Yankees

since 2003—

have warmed even the bread in the oven,

let the tap run slow,

over the ice

in a pint glass—clicking the ice, waiting

for the sweat to materialize.


I have gotten good and high, you see.

And I do sometimes try

to be at least

a little pretty. One entire day to myself,

I’d billed it, to myself. A few hours to think.


Certain knowledges appear in one blunt swipe:

a single pour of light from the sky,

and then you’re blind, for fucking weeks.

But there are other truths, too. They must be rolled

and re-rolled in the blood. It aches for years

and doesn’t know why. Like a chest, throbbing. Like a thigh,

writhing in a hand. Have I mentioned this dinner?


Like another I recall: alone one night,

in the mountains—you’d have loved it:

I blew sixty dollars on squid from the coast

and Chardonnay, and ate slowly—

in the only three star-restaurant in Missoula—

with a type of dignified sadness

I don’t often achieve.

it’s spritely drunk (you know that),

or flopping around, with locks of hair

in my hand (you know that too).

I’m only partly sure I’m not faking it, most days.

But I try to be on the lookout.

I do.


That night in the mountains: I was missing,

in what seems like a provincial way,

the opulent meals at my folks’ home

that time when they got all that money.

Showing up with transmission issues,

jacket too light, the quiet moonlight

they’d bought, in the country,

and on and on. The zombie-arms

of the past, crumbling at the door.

You could go back for longer

than it took you to live it.


I remember after dinner: my mother

in dreary thought. She’s always

looking out the window at the chickens,

or the pygmy goats they keep.

And tonight, I am busting back open,

because even in its dire days,

I know this world’s been built for me.

The annual ritual is more holy than the daily.

It must be, right? All that pomp.


I know I shouldn’t say so, but

I revere every one of my poverties

for the clear, rare sublime they grant.

Your laugh, growing between us,

before it stutters out. Your eyes,

scrambling from mine.


And anyway,

the heartbreaker is one type of satisfying finale,

in the sense of stark closure, at least.

Can you hear me? I only really like a win

that didn’t seem very likely: a nice underdog story.

I sometimes say poetry

is gonna make a comeback.

We just have to learn to write it again.


But then look at me. I’ve written this far

without even nearing what I mean:


My feeble dinner, the joke of slow

countenance—I’m trying tonight

to be beautiful,

because I’m stupidly in love.

Unadvisably in love.


I lay on the carpet, stomach churning,

with visions. I fill with innocent blood for you

and feel it,

against the ground.

And I have got


to do nothing about it.

I know that.


No sad, heroic soliloquy.

I’ve just got to stop.


And the skulls of superfluous men

look the same as any other in the hand.


And fifteen, fifteen, fifteen years may go by,

and I may rather have you than make it to forty—

I may have written that down, the last time you left—

I may curdle with dreams

of your mouth

between my thumbs,

but it still goes by—

we’d be fine. And I hate that.

And I hate that I hate that—

buildings razed, buildings

newly upholstered. It’s not heroic,

we just tire out.


And even in the flood zones, the corpses

go postal with boredom—deader still,

and getting deader. I keep telling you

I don’t mind it. It isn’t exactly a lie.


A holy man claims to have translated Virgil

into nonsense. He seems ugly,

little tin scrap teeth.


And in the storefront iglesias,

the humming of nothings,

tall jars of candle, the wicks

fizzing briefly.


Then less briefly.


Then ticking.


Nothing happens though.

Nobody notices.


Some nights, for as long as I can recall,

I know something I wish I didn’t:

the man is not holy. He’s crazy.


The light’s flicker is ordinary.


The birds hiss to remind you

that nothing is talking to you.

No one is magical.

Like as a kid, you think,

“Maybe this will be one of those

miracle moments. Maybe the sky

will open back for me now.”

And then you learned about your powers:

nothing more than a cartwheel

and a fartnoise, with your hands,

which are real. I know my soul is paltry.


And a wet deck of cards in the street

finds its way to the gutter

faster than you’d think. The joker,

in the goutlight, getting fresh

with all the queens.


He whispers separately

into each of their ears

the same thing:

I’m the fool.


They tell sad men

to visit me.



Joshua Kleinberg is an MFA candidate in poetry & translation at Columbia University. He is living in Ohio right now