TWO POEMS BY DEAN KOSTOS
my Genesis reversed, I created females
first, then families of toilet-paper dolls.
I twisted heads, torsos, limbs,
pastel faces. Scrawled names on backs.
I hid the dolls in a box beneath my bed.
They aged, grew ill,
died. Some committed suicide,
Dressed in the green of a Greek priest, I chanted
with a censer, Doll-ios, Death-ios
& buried the dolls in sand
below our backyard swings. I stabbed
twig markers. Returning
in a red robe, I dug up
the remains—needing to see
chewed, putrefied flesh. I reburied
the homunculi in the creek’s clay banks
beside our house. Swamp-willow braids
swayed, swept the ground.
Nights, I peered from my room. Muskrats,
the size of Chihuahuas, patrolled the tombs.
Like tutelary spirits, the animals
swarmed. But I knew my
were sealed from harm:
hardening by day & darkness.
I wade in boyhood’s creek.
Currents reverse. My
younger. Dusk. Crickets rasp. With one foot
in childhood, one in adulthood, I enter
night’s tarnish & peer
into shuttered windows.
My parents rise from the cracked smile
they tried to inhabit. Their voices roar
I trace a path to the chatoyant creek.
Clay banks curve below a bridge
reeking of tar.
I scribble synonyms
letter never signed, letter
never sent to childhood’s house.
That building is now a scar.
Dean Kostos’s memoir, The Boy Who Listened to
Paintings, was a finalist for the Foreword
Indies Award. His tenth book, Broken Color, is
forthcoming from MadHat Press. Kostos's books
include This Is Not a Skyscraper (recipient
of the Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award, selected by Mark
Doty). He edited Pomegranate Seeds (its
debut reading was held at the United
Nations). His work has appeared in over 300
journals, including Oprah Winfrey’s
His choral text, Dialogue: Angel of War, Angel
of Peace, was set to music by James Bassi
and performed. His literary criticism has appeared on
the Harvard University Press website. He is
the recipient of a Rockefeller Cultural Innovation
grant. He presented his poems and paper, “Schemes
and Schemata: Endless Play,” at Harvard’s Mahindra