Joshua Kleinberg


I do not need to be embarrassed here
of my first kiss, it happened at The New Guy
(a movie I used at the time to explain myself
to myself and this was good enough for then),
nor for the rock to Shane Hartzell’s head or the
stupid things I said to so many loves who’ve left.
I pine these days for the trifle of tongues,
for isolated syntactical wrongs of taste
or warmth or careless speech—childish things
that haunt us all, I think. I whimper for
the days of clear and earnest fuck-ups now.
And nightly I dream of fingers wagging at my
repentant head. I do not know the crime
but my guilt is never in question. Nightly, I break
my bones off-stage and the doctors always
shrug without concern for my deserved ache.
No nurses ask me how I feel in these dream rooms
and this seems savage and right to me.

It’s understood at night as in day that I
am in the wrong even if I can’t explain
for what, or why. I know that I do not
really know how people are expected to act.
I am in awe of those whose bones occur
as afterthoughts, who do not fear the need
of gaze—at what, in which direction? I
tremble at the pressure of desk clerks
in low-cut tops and search the ground in all
my conversation. There are other things too.
I know that what drives any of my kindnesses
is not called love, but only what’s required
by somebody’s rules—like a cow, or an organ,
I have no capacity for deciphering
the ritual of it. I’m sorry, I am.
For my many and various inabilities,
but the curl in my gut does not allow for the
requisite mile of sunlight-and-exercise
contrition asks of me—WHAT IS THIS SHIT?

I MEAN ONLY TO SAY: Please help, please get
me out of here. I’m given to a place
I don’t belong or understand. Last night
for instance I kissed a girl and then I cried
about it. Why?


Joshua Kleinberg was the 2012 recipient of the Vandewater Poetry Award and the Jacobson Short Story Award from Ohio State University. Some of his words will soon be featured in Chorus: A Literary Mixtape (2012, MTV Books; ed. Saul Williams). He lives in Akron, Ohio.