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Elijah Bowen Dec 2019
childish, shattered blue pottery
rivers and a diversity of children.
to each, their broad shirts and scribbles
for heads, mouths, faces, arms.
winking at me about heaven or nirvana or both. more.
they seem wiser.
i heard that all time is occurring at once.
looking here, i see it all as reflection.
the bright infant depictions hand everything back to me as if to say-
this was this wall. this, was where you sat
and looked into it and laughed your little laugh. see? then all the leftovers-
so soggy, how they dripped off the cheap white plastic. so sad, how
you lived, some others died.
they hand me the truth like their homemade bread in the linen
(this is my body...)

joy, like anything, is born to fragments made more whole.
place your thumb on the ones with the silly chipped paint and buried toddlers’ finger nails,
and remember how both happen all at once.
like a cough.
like a child (yours) letting go of life and then the pillowcase.
like rain and the fireworks.
like all the ways how you can collect someone in your arms and speak to them
about this moment.

here is a construct.
make into a home.

after all, there is so little time.
the children meet at the hands to make a circle. everything all at once.
a pacifism of crayon box hues.
they each confide that they’re the end, the middle, and the beginning.
and one after another,
like green blips on the panels
like god and a pulse, those pyrrhic, incandescent blues
then breakage-
I close my eyes to believe them.
(do this in remembrance of me)
Dec 2019 · 281
Elijah Bowen Dec 2019
the hunchback moves with the pews
alongside children and their man
who, stiffening under his corduroy,
sits behind his services.
so lost in a translation and a tot.
hunched, i could wail
the miracle of touching in the blind.

beneath the steeple, i am told,
dirt in the eye makes it whole.
beneath the scabbed ground,
are families who wore denim
even in portraits
even when mangled with steel on the interstate.
above, i am so very lonely.

i am told they were buried in pairs.
the children’s man tells me the caskets
were closed for the service.
i want to tell him i never asked.
he involves himself with the bodies
like a shard in the night.
he and the tender middle,
pinned among ashes and ashes.

(oh god can you see

the soil

and your shepherd’s hand heading down to meet it?)

the hunchback under paper bedsheets
is a behemoth of all exterior.
touch him, tangle with it.
peeled open to the innards,
and in resignation,
there are sadder truths under the skin.
small as nail clippings on the linoleum
and me tossing myself onto the spike.

in whatever misshapen ****** i barter,
i know i still breathe like you do.
placing it all here, then,
at the holy foot of
every physicality i am mangled with,
it is a simple confession-

that you can’t know how this could be tears me apart.
Elijah Bowen Dec 2019
sleep curved miles of patched dead boys into me like a scythe.
their quilts were not mine to sweat through,
to drench nightly with my self.
but i cried out anyway.
said i needed stained warmth more than coffins ever could.
bare as they were.
prodigal as they were.
i turn aside in bed. i sweat it out.
sleep handed me its crowded city plots and boxes of
one-way ticket disownment boiled down
to an art exhibit of photographed bodies.
black and white bodies. end of life bodies.
i tore them into manageable halves.
their varied human pieces quilted themselves together onto the floor.
their eyes floated to land at my shoes.
i stared.

yet it was sleep who drew in
the fluttering array of lost bandanas dyed with every coy color
present on the rare days here
that always smelled more like mornings,
the colors peeking like barefoot children just around the corners of their smirking, drowsy city avenues after rain.
sleep dreamt me an after hours carousel.
the revelry of skintight garbage bags
brimming over with ****** boys.
lovely boys.
boys with a gleam.
faceless baby boys with sores like eyes,
full of their junk they
treasured, fondled, kissed
the little pound of flesh that was theirs,
they gave freely, bait and tackle
to swallow whole.
dust bowl dumpling soft.
pulsing expectance.
those skins underneath you’d discover pressed to an eternity of sorts
between two slurs of the same brick,
that its nightless club grime
mumbled disco sickly to me & him.
and i’d be on my knees.
by a bed, a river, a quilt, a pew, an avenue, a grave.
whatever useless dreams may come,
i always find myself there.
already knelt in every way i couldn’t possibly comprehend.
gravely, maybe beautifully-
beside another slumbering boy
too distant from life not to reach for.
for all those lost to ***/AIDS+
Dec 2019 · 266
prelude to harm reduction
Elijah Bowen Dec 2019
drag it

that way

across so much of me

in need of coming open.

that utensil is a convocation.

i have seen so much,

doing my undoing

in a matter of lines i draw

and draw and draw through it.

these, the transgressions of my body

assume sagging

just as simply

as more unbroken flesh.

my bathroom mirror

cannot bend nor mend itself

back into existence

as you or i do,

becoming human.
Trigger Warning: Self-Harm
Elijah Bowen Dec 2019
There is a wound,
black as a cave and burning,
Smoke, and then people, pour out.

Look up, up
beyond the roar of metal
beyond the seething, traumatized pixels
that clutch their ******* set out to sag with milk and blood.
beyond how far your eyes will naturally go,
and you can see it-
the flap of a purple tie
(his son insisted on it)
and that was her sister’s green dress
(they wore the same size in everything).
small and out of the blue
they plummet as children.
so we the people or as we were later titled bystanders
want to hold them in our arms
we want to grab them out of the sky, yes,
grab them with those awful thoughts of belonging.
that you ought to be here, with me
on this ground that will inevitably
lead to homes that haven’t used up
all their printer paper on fliers.
home, not the sound of a car crashing
into another car except
we know it’s you and the pavement
and it’s all right if we can’t scrub all of it from our heads and faces, just please try to be down here with us, walking sometime tomorrow and
19 years from today
same old same old
New Yorkers pounding the concrete
upright, wearing our dress shoes
with a shirt we bought after we somehow
were all walking the day after that and our
minds were still spiraling the shaky little walking path we made
around the first woman who just wouldn’t
stop falling and bursting open
falling and bursting open
and falling and falling open again.

jump into the promise that
i will try to catch you.
even if it’s on the flip side, baby,
just please trust that i’ll be standing,
rippling in blue,
right where you need me to be.
Dec 2019 · 224
Elijah Bowen Dec 2019
tiredness yearning

circling running


to. hounding happiness cutting.

finding you is being a smoking gun.


smiling stopping beginning

the show. cancel clear. all of it.

oh your hand in mine.

oh removing it.

vanishing. walking away.

heavy hand, a slight of mine.

and look, i am walking out. and look,

you are just beautiful like this.

look, when i saw you there.


i am going into my magic trick now

see how i am

hanging electrocuting executing it

perfect. yeah, it was good that time.

yeah, how are you feeling tonight?

you’re laughing and it’s all in your body.

your ******* and you’re all in his body.

i have a book of named things.

tell what is your favorite of mine.

i absolutely love this business of

feeling doing being alive

performing joking around

jerking driving crashing my cars.

it is causing me. i yank it out.

it is affecting me. i soak my skin in the red tub.

staying. waiting it out.

leech the poem

leech lover, leech sister, leech the color,

leech the razor, the less fortunate,

i leech the sight of

you, you, you and the place we are in. please, i’m begging, please-

absolve the praying and praying and eating and breaking and smiling, thinking. tapping the windowpane for dust but it’s the view

that i’ve been wanting and i found it and

i am leaving for it and i am a running wound or joke and i am

blotting the bed with bleeding and i am

sewing myself in place.

i have tried to walk and i am afraid, still,

i might become an unclothing of a human animal amassing

body to be shot at.

i look and i am prey.

i look and it’s

you again. bed head.


risen like a tree, armed to the teeth.

your smile,

in my presence one more time

is a wholly new and wondrous


if i was no mute thing beside you, it would not go unsaid that

these are the losses i can abide by. that for your happiness, beloved,

my friend,

i would huddle all my wounds

into a constellation

and darken the leaves to show you.
a poem for someone i love differently. i am still glad i know you.
Dec 2019 · 5.3k
Elijah Bowen Dec 2019
people **** people
with nothing but fingers and hair
and their very heavy breath.
their breath like a crow beak
before crucifixes of straw. like a tightening banishment of a lung.
remember when we would blow it
onto our car window and create that
consistent mirth of fog to
begin in?

the bodies riddled with bullets that flank
the highway are no such thing.
the schoolchildren lying face down in the corner of the closet are no such thing.
they are just winter coats with schoolchildren to fill them
for the time being.
no amputation of what’s mine
will aid them into the grave.
no mass communication grief. so
why would you call it a mass grave when in truth it was just a pit i dug to fill with crowds of people who died under the pretense that they had previously done so,
that nothing was new under the sun.

and when people **** people like people
do with their instruments
as ways of extending themselves into the world and into the marrow of our body
obliterating organs of people with their stretching of the muscular rib, shoulder.
one eye closes firmly.

it’s nothing but a hand gun
as if to say a hand eats the gun
and makes it whole.
as if to say the reinforced metal door
exit plan for people who are being killed by other people clicked shut and locked
15,000 years ago and i can’t quit slamming what’s left of me into it.

your kid is very dead.
but then again so is mine.
suppose they killed each other.
suppose they both made the mistake of dragging their small, stupid bodies through the trajectory of another body in the first place. in the chip aisle of a gas station maybe. in theaters this christmas.
in the midst of a good song that began playing on the lobby radio
just a minute before,
oh yeah before,
things really got going.

i saw people killing people
on television the other day
with their
whole bodies,
devouring themselves like surgical gloves
slick with oiled consumption
and bleeding out
and i could do nothing.
some kids died just because
and they told me so and i was told nothing could ever help them because they were just people and they were dying.

“breaking news” ended up just being people again.
in those moments, i was eating breakfast.
our houses were very quiet and needed me in all of them, grandfather clock over CNN, clarifying what has already been
committed and committed again.
the cipher was others lost blood.
Dec 2019 · 213
Elijah Bowen Dec 2019
i rather like the taste of men

on the brink of something.

mere seconds away.

i like the brininess of their belly.

the dead drop to their pelvis

and i so like it when

my gaze is in grease dollops

sly and

cut, by morning, onto their thighs.

this is no accident, because god creates

for worship and i am meant to be.

god creates me right now and tomorrow

and if you ask him, he will tell you that

i am no light touch, no wind-chime

brush in the mississippi november.

i am a rollicking thing.

i lean on you like truants on brick walls

chew up all the toothpicks

of all the diners from here to oakland.

i drum the earth with a flex as

tense as a cymbal and recline

in the suddenness of peeping eyes.


i will cut my teeth on you,

romp to the city of men,

and feed.
Apr 2019 · 413
Elijah Bowen Apr 2019
hate sings a love song,
blithe, pretty, little tune
in honor of its heritage.
hate sings sweetly, a song
of marches and hangings,
of ghettos and slavery
it hums admiration for its people.
it sings of this land.
the majestic peaks and playful meadows.
it sings, with love, of blood-drenched cotton and  
trenches adorned with crooked bodies.
it sings of its forefathers-  
the conquistadors and pioneers.
saintly butchers and child rapists.
hate paints it’s history holier than the Sistine Chapel,  
singing blindly like a hymn.

hate sings a love song,  
possessive and vicious.  
it scrawls the lyrics on
subway walls and sycamore trees.
it sings in symbols and metaphors,
accompanied by the beat of temple gunshots and kicks to the ribcage.
hate sings through the pulpit and the pew,
clipping it’s verses from a holy book,
it sways to the rhythm of “Amens” and “Hallelujahs”

hate breathes down my neck and yours,
knocking door to door,  
bearing music with a message,  
it weeds out the undesirables one by one.
for the greater good,
hate tortures children therapeutically,
and executes those presumed guilty.
it erases generations
in concrete rooms  
and in the bellies of ships.  
it explodes homes,
smashes panes of glass,
and burns every convenient symbolism.
hate roves and rages and spits and howls,
singing the song of a beautiful future.
Apr 2019 · 493
ashes to ashes
Elijah Bowen Apr 2019
I burn **** between my lips.
one by one.
******* them down with skill.
Skull to lungs,
ashes to ashes.
I am the smoke of myself that  
gathers deep inside
and prowls out, darkly
like faceless men at night
sunken in city pavement,  
pacing towards desire.
And so the word saunters and spirals,
clouding upwards
from my red hot tongue.
I watch it as it leaves me.
I lick my lips of the sting,
and ash drips on my shoe.
I take a deeper breath.
and look ahead.
perhaps smiling,
perhaps darkly.
As it twists itself into nothingness,
sinking headlong,  
like the private history that it is,
into the ignorant, pretty sky above.
The use of the word "***" here is, of course, meant to be a double-entendre. I swear I'm not British, nor do I have an affinity for cigarettes.  ;-)
Apr 2019 · 143
Elijah Bowen Apr 2019
the ******* claw at the bone-
their skull cap bastille,  
domed in like ants under a bowl,
whispering and itching,
searching for any crack or hole...
They are possessed.
and so they pulse like an enemy drum
Hostile and sonorous,
Pounding the mind with a beat.
Release, release, release...
My myriad, my
beautiful collection  
of muddled madmen, transients every one,
How clumsily they lust,  
and with sweet earnest,
for the lines of my notebook
or the empty air around my lips.
Some I swallow deep to still the frenzy,
Suffocating language in my stomach.
Others I concede to spill out into life,
I am indiscriminate.
watch the lucky ones stumble and run like blood,  
towards liberation by bated breath.
Apr 2019 · 4.9k
Here, in America.
Elijah Bowen Apr 2019
Here in America,
we improvise morgues
as needed.
in the cafeterias
or by the lockers,
near the ticket booths,
and at the altars.
We divvy up the dead.
Tally them
and report the number
like an answer.
13, 20, 49, 58, 6
Every death count
a timely national shock.
Almost as if  
our well-televised  
monthly tragedy
was ever anything less
than a game of roulette.
anything less than a matter of time
and time and time again.
Covering them each
with our bed sheets,
we try and stifle it.
Do our best to
staunch the the sights,
the noises,
(“just like chairs falling”)
the names
that keep bleeding out
onto our thoughts  
and tongues,
Far too much and
too often
not to choke on.

Here in America,
we’ve learned that  
horror is level-headed.
It is debatable.  
It is pangless.
It seeps, deep to the core,
perverting with a silent smile.
the steady, feverish dread
weaving itself into the mundane.
the “god help us”  
annulled by the
“respectfully disagreed”
the nightmare that lies  
always just underneath,
and just out of mind,
Until it insinuates itself
Again and again...

Here, in America
We line the bodies,
death slumped, and  
bled out on the pavement.
We arrange them-
Side by side.
Most are missing things-
a hat, a piece of face.
one shoe, a dulled pencil
(fill in C)
buzzing on the ground
lit up with unread messages
(“Please call me”)
They are missing-
an upcoming  
7th birthday party,
(Star Wars themed)
They are missing-
their vacations.
their first dates.
their college applications.
job interviews.
Lined up lifeless,  
they are missing
far too many things  
to gather.
Elijah Bowen Apr 2019
in this expanse,
painted sky dripping its
dinner-plate-scraped hues
of honey,
and pyramids.
I am breathing, alive,
filling my chest with
air sped past
delicious and addictive,
keeping my lungs drunk with these
gulps of a larger place.
untied, peering out
from above the road,
I open my arms.
let them course through
the quickly fading sights.
a myriad of life
spreading out
in every direction.
land that races
out hazily for
hundreds of miles, unfolding.
anonymous houses
and storefronts.
their distant windows
flare white light
for those inside them.
orbs, wavering
they glow with
and misery
and parties and days
and nights and
they glow,
whispering their
familiarity of
distant things.
I reach out,
grasping inanely,
for any of it
all of it
at once.
and like sand,
I let it sift through.
become my glimpse,
my smiling passerby.
A memory to be forgotten-
it shares a brief dance
with the wind, twirling,
silently lost in itself
for just
a few
before becoming truly lost
in everything else
beautiful that is
left behind.

— The End —