Leonard Kress – Three Poems

LKLeonard Kress has published fiction and poetry in Massachusetts Review, Iowa Review, Crab Orchard Review, American Poetry Review, Harvard Review, etc. His recent collections are The Orpheus Complex, Thirteens, and Braids & Other Sestinas. He teaches philosophy, religion, and creative writing at Owens College in Ohio and edits creative non-fiction for Artful Dodge.

Walk Like Bo Diddley

I never walked 47 miles of barbed wire, and
I never used a cobra-snake for a necktie, but
I did walk the gauntlet of my suburban high school
hallway with my girl—before the bell, between classes,
up against the envy of friends, the shop teacher’s smack
pointer, and the Black guys from the newly expanded
district, who mockingly called me Bo Diddley, because
I was always getting my blues band together and
they didn’t like Blues or the blues-harp in my pocket.
Back then nobody in my school did, and none of my
friends had a clue what Dylan meant in From a Buick 6–
walkin like Bo Diddley, not needin no crutch—as I
whisked away my girl in my parent’s Valiant Slant 6.

Kol Hevel

“A philosopher is saved from mediocrity
either through skepticism or mysticism,”
E. M. Cioran wrote in Tears & Saints. This meshes
with Emmanuel Levinas’ arch comments, how
the path to God might take one through atheism,
before, as Simone Weill writes, “God wears himself out
through the infinite thickness of time and space to reach
the soul and captivate it.” Only to abandon
that soul, letting it make the reverse journey alone.
Kol Hevel is a pun. It means “all is vanity,”
and it’s found in Ecclesiastes—but it also
means the voice of Abel, or the silenced bloody words
the brutally murdered brother is longing to speak.


My dancer daughter says dancers have higher thresholds
of pain than most. And she told this to the physical
therapist who was then electrocuting her calf.
I suspect she meant psychic pain too—though probably
She wouldn’t admit it. Not simply “an intrinsic
quality…raw, sensory…” pain is always public,
always shared, and irreducibly metaphoric.
The use of anesthesia was frowned upon until
a few centuries ago—for it anaesthetized
both the virtuous and the vicious alike, making
it impossible to tell whether their pain was meant
to punish or to redeem. My daughter does not scream
the therapist writes down in her notes, or even squirm.



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