Posted by: Rachel Mallino | September 20, 2009

Dysfunctional Batch #13 – Leonard Kress

About the (dys)functional poet:
Leonard Kress grew up in Philadelphia, studied religion at Temple University, Slavics at Indiana University and the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, and creative writing at Columbia.  He has published two chapbooks and two books, Sappho’s Apples (HarrowGate Press) and The Orpheus Complex (Main Street Rag) , and has published work in APR, Massachusetts Review, Missouri Review, New Letters, Quarterly West, etc. Kress received grants in playwriting and poetry from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and in poetry from the Ohio Arts Council.  He currently teaches writing and art history at Owens College in northwest Ohio.


Letter from the Carpathian Mountains (Stanislaw Witkiewicz)

My dearest Nineczka, why did the postcard I sent
upset you?  I haven’t had a drink since Wednesday, and I
don’t intend to start again.  I feel awful, my life’s
a total fiasco.  I spend my days with clenched teeth,
writing and rewriting, taking purposeless walks and
growing serious about suicide.  Rotten luck—
yesterday, peeing in the woods and gazing at the
landscape, a huge horsefly bit my prick, causing it to
swell up like a balloon.  I thought that I was going
to lose it, but iodine and the good doctor saved
this priceless gadget for the benefit of future
generations.  It’s red, could still fall off, if it does,
I will send it to you, preserved in formaldehyde.

I Count Myself Among Their Descendents

The Seer of Lublin became so drunk he had to leave
his fellow Hasids to crash in an upstairs bedroom.
He awoke and trying to pee out the window, fell
to a septic pool below, discovered that morning
clutching his erect penis.  Holy scepter in hand,
was how his disciples told it, miraculous sign,
they proclaimed, of a steadfast and true circumcision–
Rabbi Issac is no less than a prophet!
And don’t
discount those rival sects who saw things differently—
all those competing shtetls, from Lublin to Ukraine
whose tactics included intimidation, death threats,
rock throwing, home invasion, and hostile synagogue
takeovers, so bad the Czar was forced to intervene.

Marduk Kills his Mother

His body was beautiful and his stride majestic.
When he raised his eyes, great lights flared.  He was the leader
from the first, cleverest of gods and he singled out
Tiamat his mother, entangling her in the wind,
shooting gales deep in her belly as she attempted
to suck him in.  Tumescent, she gaped, and he fired off
an arrow piercing her gut, slashing her womb.
He flung down her carcass, straddled it, and her allies fled.
Her skull smashed, arteries severed, the gods laughed, sent tributes,
as Marduk rested.  Then he split her like a cockle-shell,
the top an arching sky holding back primal waters,
her cracked ribs dividing east from west.  Top from bottom,
right from left, good from bad, master from slave—dear mother.

-after the Babylonian epic Enuma Elish



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