Kip Knott ~ Three Poems

Hinterland: A Golden Shovel

Now I am qui­et­ly wait­ing for
the cat­a­stro­phe of my personality
to seem beau­ti­ful again,
and inter­est­ing, and modern.
— Frank O’Hara, “Mayakovsky”


After months of iso­la­tion, I won­der who it is I see now
when, at the win­dow, I
stare through the naked man as if he were a hologram—
trans­par­ent, ethereal—a man who quietly
stares back as if waiting,
alone yet depen­dent, for
me to allow him to breathe
so he may avoid the catastrophe
of dying with­out ever dis­cov­er­ing proof
of his own autonomy.


We share the same personality,
only reversed. He wears his smile like a memento
of when he passed as real. We seem
to both be wear­ing the same smile, beautiful
for one of us but not the oth­er. Which of us was born-again?
Which of us is from some for­eign land
that the oth­er finds vast­ly more interesting
than the place the oth­er believes is his homeland?
Which of us is pre­mod­ern and which of us is postmodern?


Outside it is win­ter. I blow on the win­dow to clothe
him in the warmth of my breath. The country
around him shines like a bright oasis.
I keep the walls that sur­round me grey
and bare, pur­pose­ly bland
as prison walls to avoid over­stim­u­la­tion. Even brown
is too col­or­ful for my mind to withstand.
Even white.


When I look at him, the light he stands in
sears my synaps­es bare as light­ning-struck trees.
The longer I look at him, the hard­er it snows
until white­out turns his world into a hinterland.


Eventually, dark skies
fill the gaps, give him mass, make him shatterproof.
I hear his muf­fled laughter
when I wrap the glass with my knuck­les. I always
knew the day would come when I would be the diminishing
echo of my own reflec­tion return­ing lifeless.
If I were him, I would find it funny
to watch me fade, know­ing that I cannot
stop or even adjust
how quick­ly he becomes a darker
ver­sion of me, the man who he believes has not
lived life to its fullest, but rather has lived a bland life just
as mut­ed as every shade of grey.


Before it is too late, I snap the drapes shut and wait
on the end of my bed in dismay.
For a moment I think I hear him. Maybe
he can help me breathe
more even­ly. Maybe he isn’t the coldest
part of me after all. Maybe today is the day
he final­ly dis­cov­ers the proof
he needs, and togeth­er we will soothe
his cuts from the shat­tered win­dow that will take a year
or more to heal and scar over. No mat­ter what
hap­pens before I sleep, even if he does
noth­ing and leaves me to seethe
in my own thoughts as I think
of him stand­ing out­side my win­dow, aloof
and unfor­giv­ing, I know that
he is me and I
am him. I will not demean
him. I will do what
I need to do
to keep him with me. I
will let him stand
with­out me and alone for a time, if
that is what he needs—if that is what I
need—to do
to sur­vive. Perhaps
one day, though, a day not too far away, I
will give in and open the cur­tains and find that I am
by his side, that togeth­er we have dis­cov­ered what it means to be myself



Last night I dreamed of a baby preserved
in a cracked jar. The wax ring had peeled away

and at my touch, the tiny girl’s skin,
papery and brown, shud­dered to dust.

The morn­ing we rehearsed our vows in a church
min­ers aban­doned when the coal ran out,

we were told when to stand together,
when to part.

I slipped an imag­i­nary ring of braid­ed gold
on your fin­ger, a sign of my love and faith.

Sunlight through an open window
sealed you in amber.

On cue, we pulled the bel­fry rope,
but the bell, bro­ken in its cradle,

had for­got­ten how to sing.



A silence hov­ers over the earth …
— Robert Bly

The silence that hangs like a penumbra
over our chaot­ic world is the kind of silence
we nor­mal­ly hope for, dream of. But what hovers
above us these days rolls over
like a corpse into a mass grave. We Breathe

through masked mouths, a dearth
of smiles greet­ing us wher­ev­er we go. We seethe
with each new death toll, the dead grow­ing like grass
in a dis­re­gard­ed field. What lifts
our hopes for a moment ever so slightly—

the promise of a vac­cine, a dip in
unem­ploy­ment fig­ures, a moment out­side to bathe
mask­less in sun­light and briefly cheat
the sys­tem and our own fears alike—
wilts and fades like flow­ers that wreathe

the base of someone’s for­got­ten and ancient
grave where a mar­ble angel sits wing-
less, unable to fly back to Heaven. There is proof,
though, that our life before is mere­ly in a coma.
I see it glow­ing red as a cin­der on the wing of a blackbird

whose body glints in the bud­ding sun­rise like mica.
I see it in the calm eyes of the plough horse
that greets me on the oth­er side of the fence as it gazes
at me for the treat I nor­mal­ly bring every morn­ing. Steadily,
I reach for her, the apple slices bal­anced ten­der­ly in my flat

palm, and let her warm breath ignite a hid­den ember with­in me.


Kip Knott’s debut col­lec­tion of poet­ry, Tragedy, Ecstasy, Doom, and so on, was pub­lished in 2020 by Kelsay Books. A new full-length col­lec­tion of poet­ry, Clean Coal Burn, is forth­com­ing in 2021, also from Kelsay Books. His writ­ing and pho­tog­ra­phy have appeared in numer­ous jour­nals and mag­a­zines through­out the U.S. and abroad, includ­ing The American Journal of Poetry, Barren, Barrow Street, Gettysburg Review, La Piccioletta Barca, Long Poem, ONE ART, Poet Lore, The Sun, and Virginia Quarterly Review. In addi­tion, he is a reg­u­lar month­ly con­trib­u­tor to Versification. Currently, he teach­es lit­er­a­ture and com­po­si­tion at Columbus State in Columbus, Ohio. In his spare time, he is an art deal­er who trav­els through­out the Midwest and Appalachia in search of vin­tage and antique paint­ings to buy and sell. He lives in Delaware, Ohio, with his wife and son, four cats, a dog, and a Chilean rose hair taran­tu­la. More of his work may be accessed at