Rumpus Original Poetry: Two Poems by KB Kinkel






It’s halfway through summer
and too hot for walking.

This is not an allegory.

Each week, when rice and soaps
run low, you go out

among roaming eyes, mouthless

faces and carry back what you think
will sustain. It must all be cleaned,

which takes time. The rest is spent

waiting. Against an immeasurable real
desire, old as dust, to make something

and thus survive.

Also known: scales in your teeth
are those of your own frightened tail.

To the extent that a contract binds

this soul to this body—as light
to its linen shade—

you fear—not just a release

of terms, but complicity in binding.
Is this


Particles mote from your aerosol

You’ve done this before, you know. In so many bodies.


Bird Watching

This time I come out alone.

Because a trick wing reveals just
that you were there, and are no longer.

Because my skin, and days they allow
grow porous and blue
           as the break of air
between branches.
Into nothing.

Because, when I was a kid,
my father with his pilot voice
leading me to altitude
           and with his anvil arms
held me up to see their small bodies.

He made me know their names.

He did not know to teach me, then
about the ways men live. But to match
the breakable creatures to their songs
he lifted his eyes —

below their blues,
their impossible strains.

           We learn silence from sounds
           that shake us still
and never ask us to sing.


Photograph of KB Kinkel courtesy of KB Kinkel.

KB Kinkel (they/he) is a writer living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. They teach English and creative writing and are the communications board member at Trans Resistance Massachusetts. Their poetry and other writings have appeared in Prelude, Ninth Letter, Eckleburg, The Rumpus (as interviews), and elsewhere, and their chapbook Blood Machine was a finalist for the Tupelo Press Sunken Garden Chapbook Prize (2020). KB holds an MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. More from this author →