Steven Karl

from I Heart the Cult Years


& when I tried to die I remapped the world
            Collapsing walls & bursting borders fists full of ecstatic hearts
& when I tried to die the cartography
            Coughed up coins of uselessness & instead of death they were spent in the sun
& when I tried to die temporality was no longer risk aversive
            Plunging headlong into the hereafter on whimsical whispers
& when I tried to die twee twilights sparkle uncountries tis of thee
            Patriots & patrons of the patriarch impaled by poisoned flower stems
& when I tried to die space no longer circulated around capitalism
Capitalizing on the human spirit we burned commerce & commodities by the barrelful
then aged beer called Eternity robust in its
hopped up love & smoky with the guts of their failure
& when I tried to die I was accused of giving up on life
            & I laughed myself into dust
                        & then laughed until the revolution
                                    Ripped from my lungs


 When I tried to die it was a little lie/light a flicker for what we were about to become—


In the where the
In the end the
Middle where
When the
Then the
After the
Or before
The or during
The only then
The—                                                                                Conflate/Confluence/Confine

 Consider this
Darkness that
Spreads quiet-like
Shadow cast/casting
Shadow leaves/ leaves shaking
Rocks/ wind/ interrupt
Disrupt/ river-run/run river run




The woods/ It began/ in the woods/ Both hunted/ & hunter/Scrappy pines/ birch thin
stretched/stretching cloud skin/ Gashed grey brown/ The sound/ wind moves/ feather flap/
Felt/ felt/ feel/ moss clings/ Tree trunk covers/ small ground/ footsteps/ followed by footsteps/
First/ in the darkness/ it appeared/ then/ morning light/ bodies strung/ left dead dangling/
In that/ dappled early light/ harsh shadows &/ soft sun spots/ weeds heavy with flower/ 


 & when I tried to die my body ruptured & out came the siren song of robins

& when I tried to die collapsed upon the bathroom floor ice formed in my eyes

& when I tried to die I became glacier an imperceptible glide upon the centuries of fuck-ups

& when I tried to die scraping the razor blade across wrists, rainbows puddled on the floor

& when I tried to die my hands & feet became an endless procession of double bass drums

& when I tried to die my mouth morphed into screeching trumpets & clarinets

& when I tried to die a walking bass dogged all of doomsday desires

& when I tried to die my heart amped wave after wave of feedback

Reverb, delay, distorted & dancing in a panorama of flashing lights

Strobing death dear darkness gently then aggressively that is

& when I tried to die I burned my books & ashed their words onto my skin

& when I tried to die my shed skins slithered into serpents

& when I tried to die my bones stripped of flesh & muscle became a cave

Became a cemetery & I harbored all the unwanted death sprouting flowers

Buzzing with bees, wreaking with worms, dripping in mud, each bone broke

& broke again the bones breaking & building cave fortress cave fortress caved-in because

When I tried to die there were so many endless black holes writhing with

Unwanted deaths, tree roots winding upon discarded carcasses becoming

Neither tree nor human but something other into out of the earth

Alive in spite of self/ head ripped off/ mouth agape/ spilling & spilling



 & when I/ out the burst/ came ravaged robin &/ I when tried/ song ribcage/ come collapsed I/reverb when I/ upon the to ice/ eyes tile became/ bone broke/ when glacier I/ siren my of/ red robins ripped/ imperceptible I/ glide ice my eyes/ reverb upon/ collapsed centuries I /became I to I/ when burst mouth/ dogged my/double bass of my/ out to from feet/ I of hands/Endless of/ procession bees/ breaking desire/ doomsdays dogged/ walking waves of waves/ Of delay dancing/ distorted strobing/ dear mouth/ morphed darkness screeching/

Delay panorama/ amp heart/ hands trumpet/ double gently darkness aggressively/ then dear/Burst out/ when I/ robin ripped came/ tired tried body buzzing/ song collapsed come I/ ashed onto/

Sprouting/ flowers: unwanted skins/ slithered: cemetery shed/ unwanted: I/ muscle unwanted
I/ flesh unwanted/ shed bones serpents burned/ books: ashed endless holes becoming/

Unwanted flowers/ slithered darkness/ into panorama/ flashing carcasses becoming/

Neither I/ nor tree/ nor something I/ other I/ out of I/ earth I /the I/ there I/ were I/ fortress I/
upon I/ reverb ice to/ became I/ tired when I/ glacier I/ upon siren I/ of I/ robin imperceptible I/live I/ ripped I/ self I head I/ mouth I/ agape I/ spilling I/ neither I/ nor other I/ spilling I/ in spite of I/

Dripping// unwanted// upon discarded// agape spilling// & spilling I//


 Untitled Blue #12



b  b  b                    b  b  b              b  b  b              b  b  b
e    e   e             e   e  e              e   e  e             e   e   e
c       c    c            c     c  c            c    c   c           c   c   c
a          a     a           a      a  a            a    a   a          a     a   a
u           u     u          u        u  u          u    u   u         u          u    u
s           s      s           s        s   s            s    s  s          s                s     s
e           e      e          e         e    e               e  e  e             e              e      e
w     w     w         w         w     t                   w   w  w         o       o        o
e      e      e          e          e  h                      e    e   e       u     t        t
b       b     g          g           h e                b     d       a      r   h      h
e       e       o           o          a  h          e      i           r         c   e e
l        l         r             t           d n     l      d              e          h    r    r
i         i           g             f          t  e  e i   g             n              i       w    w
e         e          e                a       o    v     e   o      o                  l      i     i
v         v         d                    t   p     e     v      t   t                   d     s    s
e          e       o                    &   r     r     e      u      s              r       e    e
d         d      u                   l    e       s     d     n           a        e      t     d
i        i      r                   a     t       t            i    d           f    n     h   e
n     n   s                 z       e      o                t     o     e   w           e    s
s      f  e             y        n          p               w     n          e      w         p
k      l    l            h         d           s          o     e               r     i            i
a      o    v           a         t           b          u                     e  n               t
t        w   e           d        o          e            l              n   d                    e
e        e      s         u          b     t                d       e     o                t
b        r      o        n          e r              m      v         w           h
o            s      n         h          h  a       a             e   s          e
a             &        f           e          e   y  k                 r   w  g
r             f           a               a         a    i e             s          e   a
d            o           s                l            l      n  a      a        r            r
s            r           t                t             t     g       d       f   e          d
&            g       l                h           h     t        i             e  a    e
t             i       o           y           y      h      f                  l   n
h            v       v           h     w     e     f                   l         s
r             e        e           e  e       b  e                t                w
a             n        &     a    b    o  r                     h              e
s         e         j    d     e   d   e                           e              s
h     s        u  s     c         y    n                            s       t
m     s       n         a                   c                   a          a
e               k               m                 e           m          r
t              f                       e                       e           v
a            o                        t                                           e
l                 o                  h
d            e

 Untitled Blue #13

after Hannah Arendt




t         h

 e    m

 a    n

 y  w

 e  r                               e          n 

 i         e                  t            h                        e            r

 p e              r       v                                                   e                                   r 


t e                               d                          n                  o                                  r                     s


a d                           i                             s                          t                        i


c,                                t                        h                                 a      t


t         h     e         y            w     e 

r e                          ,                            a                n                     d                 s 

t i                        l                            l                          a                 r                                           ,


t e                           r                   r                       i              b                               l y 

a             n                d                          t                  e                        r                r             i

f                   y                     i                    n                     g                   l                y

n  o                                          r  m                                                               a l 

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Steven Karl is the author of two poetry collections, Sister (Noemi Press, 2016) and Dork Swagger. Recent work has appeared in Dream Pop Press, Elderly, Bear Review, the Journal of New Jersey Poets, and SubLevel. He lives in Tokyo, Japan with his wife and daughter.