Peter Kline


                                              Ich allein
                    lebe und leide und lärme.
                                                 I alone
                    live and suffer and howl.
                                  —Rainer Maria Rilke, The Blindman’s Song,
                                                 trans. Stephen Mitchell

Having been a lurker in dark corridors’
                                                                half-open doors,
a malingerer in booths, a swiveler of stools,
a cocksure cruiser of bad-liver bars in borrowed clothes,

I go where everyone goes 
and I go unseen.
                              Here—take my hand and shake it.
Only I know where this hand has been.


I could have asked for a straight out, and got it.
I took the crooked way.
Now I see it sidelong,
                                    and pay for it on credit.

Till the pander-man knock-knocks
I prick my ears for come-and-get-it.
Don’t let him cash me in
                                           till I collect.


I was worried, so I watched.
Watching was a thing to do
                                             to bring me a little bit closer to you
whether or not you knew it.

(Oops! You missed a spot.)
                                               Where you’re rough I feel rough.
Looking’s not enough. I want touch
that separates who’s touching from who’s touched.


I understand the way the killer works,
                                                              on three-week clocks.
Little itch, a little urge, a little ticklish hypothetical
then I splurge. And hustle to mop up.

To me it’s not just stroke. More
than sore-knees from keyhole-peeping
                                                               the pussy floss its teeth.
It never happened if I don’t get caught.


To keep me in I had to keep it out.
And I needed to be kept:
                                          a risky secret,
I had more power the more I went unsaid.

Then I put it to my lips. I was pronounced
emphatically. My syllables were set.
Now I’m a byword, passed
                                               mouth to mouth to mouth.


While others get turned back, I pass,
but, passing, I grow less,
a blond john doe with a flinch and a wasted face.

I want new ways to be erased—
a righter lie, a stranger’s cut-or-kiss.
Someday I’ll pass right through
                                                     to someone else.