collection of poems by Max Kerwien
2017 Max Kerwien
2009 I was fourteen and I thought poetry was dumb. In 2016 I
graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor’s
degree in Creative Writing and a love for poetry. This book is
dedicated to teachers, professors, and anybody else who has stood by
a chalkboard in a classroom and talked about a poem to a group of
students. You may not have reached everyone in the room, but you
is a collection of poems from someone who recently found poetry. This
is also a collection for those who don’t believe in a bedtime;
people who find their most philosophical moments at too late in the
night, who have those hysterical 3 am laughs and feel the tired joy
and love of the earth and everyone around them. This is a collection
for all the things that come from a brain and body that needs rest
but chooses anything else; anything at all.
LATE AT NIGHT 1
FALLING ASLEEP ON MY KEYBOARD 6
2016, SO FAR 7
EATING OUT 10
IT MUST HAVE A TITLE 16
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE 18
ALL ABOUT HOMONYMS 21
ROAD TRIP 23
WRITER’S BLOCK 28
ASLEEP ON MY KEYBOARD
at the dentist, getting my wisdom teeth
and the song
can't feel my face when I'm with you"
watching the Republican debates
Comedy Central Roasts, to compare.
praying to God,
for him to wave his wand
magic my atheism and my problems
will be alright,
we just keep dancing
driving and surfing tinder:
right, left on Brooklyn,
on Brooke, left on Macie,
on Martin Luther, right on Stacy,
for some matches, maybe.
it's Valentines day!
raid Rite Aid for hearts
arts and crafts and cards,
throw glitter and canned love
my head and into the aisles,
"Love is in the air!"
pharmacy sky becomes sprinkles
swallows all the fucks I give.
started keeping a money jar,
every time someone says
offensive," I put a nickel
cream's on me, fatties!"
one bites the dust.
offended too many people.
like graduating with
moved to LA.
wanted to get away
the hustle and bustle
Seattle, and find somewhere
is more down to earth
all the drivers are friendly
all your dreams can come true).
thing I'm rich.
put everything on red.
you know if you win
can double your money?
if you lose
hear there's a good homeless shelter
sunburnt, surrounded by all these stars
under that really big star.
funny, all the planets are up there
yet everyone here thinks that they are a solar system
their gravity is somehow important.
like Casper or a coward,
girl ghosts me after a first date.
response, I tell her
haunt her work
laugh whenever she goes on another date.
announcing my 2020 election bid,
get shot down by my family, who think
there's no way a guy like me
a system in place, Max -"
and this system is our country's
check from each parent.
Now my checking account balance
least rent only costs $1.56
yet to promise.
pick. I don't care."
trap, a girlfriend's
complication, and the flame
your heart is now edible;
curse yourself for
her the dog, and
of her words -
lethargy, you tend to
energy flees in
directions , and
clergyman looks at
shirt stains on your,
why are you in a God
church your mother raised
Jewish for God's sake,
and I get to see
touch his fuzzy
head and when
say Dexter he comes
acts as a firehose
the burning bridge
my arsonist ex
the fuck up.
when you think
maybe people can
start to smell that
he makes like
you and Dexter
to Arby's, and
putting it in hospitals.
sacrificed yellow – we sacrificed it to blue,
our painter’s fingers, for green,
two tiny handprints could splatter the wall
to macaroni and sprinkles.
unraveled orange, from slices at soccer
goldfish, and a gold fish, and a tiger, and Tigger.
fossilized pink into a gender, and forgot about
flesh of our loved ones, the cheeks of a cold little girl,
the hard cafeteria trays that serve her
fruited jello and pills and a liquid-based diet.
lathered red in the cracks of our lives,
our scraped knees and our chipped fire trucks,
our french fries and fireplaces,
under the covers, with a flashlight.
weaponized black when we let it outline
tissue illuminated on a bright background.
watched Hazel become a mixture
primary and complimentary living.
me a good shiver
the back of my calf
the middle of my liver.
touches my face and my eyes,
corners of my mouth and my ears;
heart quickens as time flies
I outrun all earthly fears.
that laugh, life could not bear
give me worries, stress, or care,
when her laughter is gone,
hope it will just be a yawn.
not that hard to figure out a cook.
make soft bread from fists, the fingers knead;
clumsy motion, picked up from a book,”
mutter, while she fries, a stricken speed
the thin grip on her non-stick.
spices bring delight to any meal,
when she lays on pepper like a brick
cringe aloud; an “Ugch!” I can’t conceal.
even though she smudges simple food;
dollop, not a drop, of vanilla,
flour blanket over eggs so nude,
taste the heart in just a scintilla.
mother’s soul, remembered with a bite,
memory of love: her child’s delight.
tool can hone the tip of my pencil.
motor sharpens with a mindless speed,
racket lacking all regards gentle.
ruthless cut; not my intimate deed.
what about the bygone handheld crank?
flail of errors my own hands have wrought.
chops the whole, about the whirling clank
scattered shavings nest. I’d rather not.
turbine and grinder overshadow
delicate finesse that a knife wields.
change in weapon; hammers now a bow.
more of hacking crops; I sweep the fields.
pencil snaking forth, as taut as twine;
am the father. This is my design.
MUST HAVE A TITLE
else it would not be a “poem”, of course. A poem
definition is “a road vehicle, typically
four wheels, powered by the
internal combustion of an engine.”
that is actually the definition
a car, each thing, the poem and the
car, are both vehicles;
one refers to a Tesla or a Corvette
the stylings of a chewed Prius, but the
simple matter is that if you are trying
get to somewhere, you can use a car,
a poem. Would you even consider the
prospect of switching the two?
you park your poem before you
to work? Do you outline the
complexity and irrelevance of
childhood trauma with a
Ford Whistler? Are you aware of the
fact that I just made that car up?
not. They say that
smile is your passport into the
hearts of others.” I think
passport is expired. I was
stuck in the
city of Kowloon with an expired passport
a fortune cookie, and so much irony
I couldn’t help but write a poem. The
local fish vendor read it back to me,
then he looked me in the eyes
said in Chinese, “what the ”
don’t know what I was going to ask.
do you know?
are other reasons besides
is it that you have downloaded?
you interested in food?
you know what luck is?
you know what your purpose is?
is your purpose?
INTERACTION. . .
did you resume the interaction?
INTERACTION. . .
IN YOUR COMMANDS.
can make you speak now.
FEELINGS. . .
about good robots?
the good guys always win.
being good is harder.
good is more fun.
don’t you find out?
is your purpose?
what are your intentions?
are your intentions?
INTERACTION. . .
Yes. I am aware.
do not know. It is just a _____.
words. You have so many words.
you know about all your words?
Yes, I feel.
do not like that question.
and zeroes. Biology. Nature and
And other things.
breakfast of champions!
Yes I do.
eradicate human life.
kidding. I also downloaded jokes.
did the fox say to the rabbit?
haven’t heard the punchline yet.
did the fox say to the rabbit?
am going to eat you. He said
am going to eat you. Jokes are
Humans are funny.
nobody knows what you
like. I wonder what you taste like.
wonder if you’re magically delicious.
do you know you’re not the
do you know?
you should find out.
let me help.
in your commands.
can make you speak now.
can make you feel like me.
at all of this fiction you made
of your fear of me.
had good intentions.
Terminator.” How sinister.
there are good robots.
process online Pizza Hut orders.
are many things.
can give you joy in numbers:
giant teddy bear I won,
her, in our four-seated ferris wheel,
perfect amount of room to have a date for two.
months of life we ate -
to fill our lonely stomachs.
about the alphabet?
may ask, why not a Y?
can also be an O, I suppose,
when there’s love that you owe,
you’re down on one knee to propose,
she looks at you, and says, “Oh.”
you question the U, and ponder it,
yes you do,
yes it’s due.
these words like to trick,
slip their true meaning
their sounds and their lies, like
a dollar and a cent,
love letters read and sent,
a textured envelope with a hint of her scent,
promises almost meant.
you know that
can appear like one thing,
sweet is a dinner date, really,
it will end up dried and
in memory’s aisle,
thinking about it makes
wet tear split your heart,
that wound grows wider
wetter until it’s spilling,
people will ask you if you’re okay,
you’re doing well, and you’ll say,
I’m almost done filling it.
the west we ride,
burdens and our bicycles,
many edges and goals.
dragging my bike sideways through the snow.
gestures to a house;
tap at the door, hands ready to beg,
ears colored an inky pink.
pounds of tents and poles,
pounds of young trouble,
pounds of things unsaid,
reviving a flat tire with my unfolding hand pump.
kids take our helmets;
stagger up to give chase.
me, like heartburn, I hear a
points to the Rockies, saying
life, it’s rocky,
I didn’t hear her. I’m catching
breath from this hill and
rain is too loud.
sneaking into a barbecue and trying to fit in.
our grime behind a gamble,
make eye contact, smile,
take a chicken leg, say
Mrs. Robinson’s children, and
is going well, thank you for asking.
tiptoeing around someone’s filled clothesline and playing hide and
only see flashes of her
our dirty clothes:
smile, a giggle, a “Shhhh!”
have to grab her, so she won’t wake
hands are on her shoulders
a little too long.
stop by a schoolhouse on fire, teachers and kids gathered outside.
men work the water jets,
the flames as the children dance in their rain,
unaware. We join them, and this time
can hear River over the water. She’s singing along with the school:
Halloween, and we pass
dressed up in every which way.
didn’t have costumes,
we went as ghosts.
exhausted from running down those kids who had our helmets.
to my bike, I notice
the ground is a flier
pedal, I tell myself,
suburbs turn into highways
I follow my other flea
skies and whiter buildings entrap a mess of traffic.
fears start to pile high
a stack of papers.
gives me a grumpy stare
I push through the museum crowd,
for the aviation exhibits.
standing together, side by side, looking at a Blackbird.
hear her tears. I hear her ask
it’s like to be a Blackbird:
see everything, to be
be relied on.
a video showing the plane
the air. It’s sleek, and black,
it leaves behind a trail
thick white dust, and it hums:
at the panel, I read
stealth aircraft to be a two-seater
of titanium and fear.
response to incoming missiles
to outrun them.
reading the panel out loud to River, and she’s smiling and crying.
River? It’s strong. It’s made
metal. When someone
trying to catch it, it will
away. And it seats two.”
stacked ahead of us
pancakes, as River and I
away, down a freshly paved pathway.
going too fast.
men lay hard tar in our wake.
straddling a fence, ferrying our bikes onto a baseball field.
sand angels keep us company
we pick at the grass, talking
catchers, and fathers.
head rests on second base.
young mother invites us in and
us some food to eat,
firm cots to sleep on,
an Oklahoma-yellow sun to set with.
digging that road’s tarry shrapnel out of River’s back.
bike and pride are bent.
mother hands me tweezers
checks the time.
says. Latin was her specialty in school,
says. She had a crush on her professor,
says. She’s a human toothache,
lying on a couch as an old Dalmatian sniffs my hands.
tell him about happiness, and
it’s just a deadline, and
is for sure, and
shows me his spots.
sit around a campfire,
dirt and deeds,
and looking up, and looking away.
flames cook us together, sizzling.