Amorak Huey

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The Water in Your Glass Might Be Older Than the Sun

The New York Times, April 15th, 2016

I’m pitching a comic book series about clown school

only I can’t draw; I’m more the idea-generator. I’ve always

been good with the ideas. Can’t you picture the panels,

all those blossoming young clowns in various states of wig,

grease paint, huge shoes? They’d always wear the red rubber noses,

even outside of class, that’s part of the trope of the series, 

that’s how we know they’re in clown school and not, say, 

electrician school or meteorologist school

or the University of Phoenix. Think how much this school

would save on buses: use tiny cars instead, ba-dump-bump,

I could go on all day, but how have you been? 

What’s keeping you up at night these days? Did you

hear about how all water on the planet might have started

as part of a massive frozen cloud, drifting through space

until it hit our atmosphere and made our planet its home.

We’re quenching our thirst with an interstellar gas

that’s older than the solar system; older than this light

that warms us. I feel like everyone should know this,

that it changes everything, but I’m probably wrong.

No, let’s go ahead and say it: I’m definitely wrong;

that reminds me, you know what’s really creepy,

or at least, I mean, it’s going to be once we finish,

is that damn clown school—can you imagine?

We’d need a trigger warning for the coulrophobic, 

I’m not one to make light of anyone’s fear. I do have

a question for you: should my clowns

also save the world? At least rescue kittens from trees

and whatnot. People like superheroes, or everyday heroes,

and would it really sustain our interest

if the stories were about merely the foibles

of clown-student life: the drinking and pairing off, 

the breaking up and hooking up and homework,

and the red rubber noses, don’t forget.

The Letter X Imagines His Life as a One-Night Stand with an Aging Country & Western Singer

previously published in Lake Effect

I remember it as Knoxville but might have been anywhere

we could hide in public, holding hands in bland hotel room,

 

braced for some great storm. We had nothing to feel bad about. 

We ran out of cigarettes, we painted our heat on the walls:

 

tiny constellations in every fissure, loophole, technicality,

we could not costume over our mutilated potential.

 

I remember your invisible breath and breasts and tongue,

our strut and posture, the approach and invitation:

 

your fingers in my mouth, the switching off of the lights

and then back on: the closest we’ll come to salvation.

The Wikipedia Page "Clowns Who Committed Suicide" Has Been Deleted

previously published in RE:AL: Regarding Arts & Letters

There are community standards to uphold. Red rubber noses to thumb.

And so many questions about process. Do you remove

 

the humongous shoes before kicking away the chair? Wash away 

white grease paint before placing muzzle to temple? What about wig,

 

polka-dot bow tie, oversized glasses? How many versions of yourself

fit into a tiny car before you connect hose to tailpipe? Oh, I should not 

 

make light of my own pain except that’s all I know how to do. Blame

my cartoon tears, the awkward orange light in this tent, 

 

the decade I grew up in: all those packs of Marlboros 

I bought for my mother while she idled

 

in a station wagon jammed with sniffling siblings. Or the pot

my father grew along the back fence, the babysitters in hot pants,

 

The Joy of Sex on the bedside table. We would have 

bet the future looked like Pong, all pixilation and promise 

 

and just enough danger to be interesting:

we rode across country standing up in the front seat

 

between squabbling parents, we were missiles

ready to be launched at slightest tap of brake or hint

 

of international incident. We knew staying safe

meant huddling on hallway carpet with hands on head

 

and holy shit, you should have seen that carpet—

ten years of brown and green and orange shag,

 

plus all the wall-hangings, we are a generation 

intimate with macramé. You probably think I’m telling stories

 

now, that this would be better off as prose,

but let me tell you something real, and pay attention

 

because I don’t do this often: every line breaks

somewhere. It’s no wonder we grew up and gave

 

our children everything they asked for. It’s no wonder

we say there’s a pill for every ill and we don’t trust our institutions,

 

though we’re either lying or mistaken because we believe

everything we’ve ever read or heard or seen or swallowed:

 

kick center-pole from under tent one hundred times,

we still take it on faith when they say it won’t happen again.

 

It’s no wonder we made a career out of this costume party:

say the word and we’ll play the fool, provide the distraction 

 

that enables someone else’s sleight of hand, we’ll carry

the ringmasters’ top-hats. It’s no surprise

 

our closing act falls short of significance.

The Letter X Puts on a Clown Suit, Sits on a Park Bench Across from a Playground and, Contemplates Fatherhood 

previously published in RHINO

Who knew there’d be all these questions? It’s not the screaming

but the facial expressions that get you, 

seven hundred ways to indicate disgust. 

 

It’s not the shit in the diapers but the changing that’s difficult.

 

It’s the smell of 3-in-1 oil that dials up childhood—

a black rotary phone on the wall of a garage,

that ring a surprise every time

and hanging up doesn’t always disconnect your call. 

It’s the violently smooth handle of a hammer

and so many different saw blades: 

teeth for every need.

 

You cannot make a thing without putting yourself at risk.

It’s not the sweat or tears or even the blood,

it’s how authentically you spit motherfucker

when your thumbnail rips off.

 

Build a treehouse to prove what?

That you know how to cut out a trapdoor

or where the rope belongs?

There’s no such thing as a gift

 

but at least slides are no longer made of jag and rust.

 

Some things can be taught, or at least learned: 

why a triangle’s the strongest shape, 

when to cut against the grain,

how to pluck chalked string against new wood

without leaving a double red line,

 

misleading and expensive. That’s the thing.

 Sneha Subramanian Kanta is a GREAT scholarship awardee, and has earned a second postgraduate degree in literature from England. Her chapbook titled Home is Hyperbole won the Boston Uncommon Chapbook Series (Boston Accent Lit). She is the founding editor of Parentheses Journal. An old soul, she runs a patisserie.

 Sneha Subramanian Kanta is a GREAT scholarship awardee, and has earned a second postgraduate degree in literature from England. Her chapbook titled Home is Hyperbole won the Boston Uncommon Chapbook Series (Boston Accent Lit). She is the founding editor of Parentheses Journal. An old soul, she runs a patisserie.

 Sneha Subramanian Kanta is a GREAT scholarship awardee, and has earned a second postgraduate degree in literature from England. Her chapbook titled Home is Hyperbole won the Boston Uncommon Chapbook Series (Boston Accent Lit). She is the founding editor of Parentheses Journal. An old soul, she runs a patisserie.

Amorak Huey's second full-length collection of poetry, Seducing the Asparagus Queen, won the 2018 Vern Rutsala Book Prize and will be released this month by Cloudbank Books. He also is author of Ha Ha Ha Thump (Sundress, 2015) and the forthcoming Boom Box (Sundress, 2019), as well as two chapbooks. A 2017 National Endowment for the Arts fellow, he is co-author with W. Todd Kaneko of Poetry: A Writer’s Guide and Anthology (Bloomsbury, 2018) and teaches writing at Grand Valley State University in Michigan.