Sick / Kiss


My grandfather said Heller was a great painter
Because he was shot – “Plumb in the thigh” –
Parachuting into France. “And he saw the world anemic.”
I don’t take stock in the fever as self-immolation

That frees the artist. However, in her post-op delirium,
My wife wrote that summer’s bedtime stories,
And the children still believe their nanny
Made them up, their mother’s encephalitic fables.

Cousin Tell got one of Uncle Lemay’s pigs drunk,
Aware that she was pregnant. After a few steps
She plopped on her belly, and my terrible visions became
So frequent and vivid, I told someone

I slashed the tires on Tell’s bicycle.
If I could draw what I saw it’d be charcoal,
Soot, ashes or tar on a burial shroud or sheet
Metal. And nobody would believe I’m happy.


My father said the poets kill themselves,
Not because of too much pain, but too much beauty –
I wondered if beauty was air, and poets
Balloons. But I feel like a lone lung that has to make

Another. On our honeymoon my wife noted
The air in hotel rooms is thinner, as if they were all
In Tibet, or like the oxygen was used up
By newlyweds in their private atmospheres.

I’m too young to buy land and hideout, but
Too old for New York, or Madrid. I’d like to spend a moment
With a horse who knew the ancient kings of epics
Inborn to their species. If I could shiver

And huddle up close with one,
In a glassy dawn on grass like shaved ice,
I could be shredded by the wind and blown away,
Become the pain and the beauty I feel.

About the Author: Jake Sheff is a monk in the monastery of imagination, an aficionado of the irrational, an orthodox duende-ist, a glad scientist. Early work can be read at Pirene's Fountain, Amarillo Bay, The Prose-Poem Project, Apollo's Lyre. He's currently working on his first collection of poetry, a sex tragedy set in a timeless dreamscape. Work from this collection can soon be seen at Danse Macabre.