Outskirts & Other Poems

by Kevin Minh Allen


Pull water out of a well, drowned spiders and all,
For mixing with fine earth and kneading clumps of clay
To make simple teapots and even simpler saucers.

Tell sister not to count her blessings near any open graves
For elders warn that any indebted soul could yawn and suck in
Your breath to become one with her misfortune.

Sister and older brother head to market with a full cart and an
Old ox who never wanders, never strays,
Just sees the road afoot and ambles straight ahead.

The family gave the beast the name
“Bounty” because there were days when their rations were meager
And their desire to live as thin as snake skin.

Vanity holds no court here.
Pettiness opens no doors to welcoming thresholds.
Pigs nap guardedly in shaded pens.

For a nod of the head you get a duck —
For a chicken you get a smile —
For a song you get a pheasant —

After fervent morning bartering, laden with unspent promise,
The ox pulls the rattling cart back home through drooping incense ashes and
Wrinkled flesh of mangoes drying on the road.


According To Our Wishes

antennae of moths
brush the ears of monks

relief of release
into a dense Heaven

touch together palms
saintly smiles alight

our mothers become quilts
our fathers fallen pine cones

a three-headed calf is born
sibling toads hop under a fence

shadow skims edge of forest
near an elephant tusk temple

rolling plumes of smoke
paint the sky a choking rain

a familiar stinging sweetness
a wrath passed down the bloodline

kin of flame seeks reunion
between jaw and tail

according to our wishes
when pain recedes, so shall we



Legs fused together inside the birth canal.
An amalgam only seen in an anomalous world.
No blanket to cover, no need to unsee the stares.
No hiding behind comfort talk.
Mother on the run and Child on a magic carpet ride.

He refuses a second opinion at this late age.
No medical miracle is desirable or attainable.
Better to lie on this bed and finger teeth that chomp at air.
Speech is a luxury inside this damp and crusty motel.
Bed springs sigh under the weight of empty pockets.

A postcard signed by no one, addressed to anyone.
A message to a lonesome Owl skims the tops of heads
and plops down on the plush rug like a worn-out puppy.

A hardened glare behind a sheet of clear plexiglass
bends the mind into counter-intuitive knots.
A search party is on the hunt for the lost answer to an ineffable question:

How do we get back at them for this?


Outskirts & Other Poems

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