Joseph Kerschbaum is the author of three books of poetry; the most recent being Dead Stars Have No Graves, published by Pathwise Press. He has also released two spoken word albums; the most recent being Our Voices Sound Like Silence (released in November, 2007).  Joseph has received grants from the Bloomington Area Arts Council and The Indiana Arts Commission/The National Endowment for the Arts. Joseph is currently on faculty with the John Waldron Arts Center, and he serves as adjunct faculty for Ivy Tech Community College.


Children Lost in Traffic (blood rush hour)


Thousands of chances in a second missed.

Our talking like rush hour, a dance of near misses.


Fenders graze like lips,

a mangled mess with one small mis-


step off the ledge – an accident with no impact.

Delicate as traffic, our tongues swerve and miss.


Turbulence rattling the skull, ears popping like cap guns.

A panicked voice saying, Please take your seat Miss.


The wreckage stretches for miles.

People stranded, everyone missing


their connections, their exits. This conversation

is a million-car-pile-up, planes dropping like missiles.


The world at a standstill as she waits.

Gridlocked clocks stopped, both hands missing.


Joe, your speaking causes accidents.

Your words are missing children who aren’t missed.



The Revolver Under the Table (the fresh red walls)



The cage door clicks as it opens.

She waits for the bird who is not


flying away. Sitting on his swing his wings

are not clipped, just useless. “You’re free,”


she whispers. He stares at her

with eyes as wide as the sky he will not enter.


Neither bird nor girl moves for hours. She relents

first and blows out his bird brains.

Owner’s Manual (there is no north)


She is trying to fix something

that isn’t working, but it isn’t

broken. Her body is a completed puzzle.

It isn’t solved enough, unbroken enough.

She reads the book every night

as if it were a holy text

or a travel guide, preparing

to visit a foreign city

where all of the streets lead

to dead end alleys

or the sea. The book

emphasizes sleep,

charts the lunar cycle, suggests

sex at high tide. Diagrams so detailed

she could take herself apart

and put herself back together

like a coffeemaker or lawn mower.

There are no mysteries in the mechanics,

still, she is lost. The compass

has no needle. Map unfolded,

she is trying to navigate the highways

and back streets of herself.


The Magnificent Destruction (kisses should always be so powerful)


I want her swollen tongue

to fancy dance with mine

and leave me wheezing and feverish.

I want everyone to see

the tainted evidence she plants

at the crime scene. My body

is ready to accept her affection and the infection

that follows. I want to bathe in her illness.

She should wash over me like medication

leaving me with hazy recollections

of her chapped lips, the beautiful intentions they harbored,

and the magnificent destruction they culled. I want her

symptoms to be my symptoms.

I want the phlegm I cough up

to be the same color as hers. I want both

of our immune systems to work overtime

like two automotive factories trying to make quota.

We will hold diseased hands

as we watch the world progress

without us. Neither of us will ever be well again

because we will play tennis with this sickness,

volleying it back and forth on the tips of our tongues

until we can’t remember

who was sick first. Or who was in love in first.   


If Thrown, Your Voice May Not Return

(My wooden throat)


Those glass eyes

blank wooden stares


as if they are waiting

to answer

a question

that hasn’t been asked

laugher carved into their faces

the voiceless mob

sits silent

as a forest

in winter

their lips


the laugher

lost when the person

who moved the mouth

made the jokes


or died or left them

behind to speak

with their own


the dummies

stare at me

I too am


for someone

to place their hand

next to my heart

inside my mouth

bring me

to life

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