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JJ Hutton Jan 28
You just sit there, right there, and watch.
I'll collect the debris, out of sight, out of
Mind your manners when I give you a piece of my
Mind scattered, adrift, wanting. You just want somebody to
Love yourself, above all things love
Yourself, get yourself a self-help book. You can't help
Yourself, in miss-matched socks, keeping regular office
Hours go by and the data won't enter itself. Nobody's
Perfect the ritual, the treadmill at lunch, the dry shampoo
Tears in the breakroom sink and loose lips sink
Ships anywhere in two business days, a total modern
Marvel at how a network television show can still make you
Cry freedom and throw half a brick through the
Window to your soul; in this moment, a penny for your
Thoughts shattered, amiss, stunting. You just need somebody to
Love me, above all things love me.
JJ Hutton Jan 14
I said what I needed to say.
Say it backwards,
breathe it undone
before the red of the taillights
before the blue of the ink
before I'm severed by a
message on the bottom
of a grocery list.

I said what I needed to say.
Now I need you to misremember,
blur it, the wind in your auburn hair
before you pack the eyeliner
before you pack the cotton swabs
before I'm cornered in
an empty room by the
sweater you left.

I said what I needed to say.
I don't need to say it again,
don't need you to see me like this
after our shows cancel and rerun
after the good habits transfigure into bad
after the last bulb goes out and
I follow the fireflies out the backdoor,
hair unwashed, pants unclean.
JJ Hutton Sep 2019
On our way home
rain along passenger windowpane
after party still stirring me, blurring me
our flesh melds leather
rolling stop gasoline haze
and your finger is in my mouth
adore you a dumb animal for you
over the railroad tracks
and you're vibrating,
I'm transforming, the steering
wheel spinning need you
supine and suggestive smoking
my vices,
the only things I'd give my
vices up are my vices
the sun can wait
the sun can obscure
dwell indulge imprison
please
Aug 2019 · 92
A Saturday in October
JJ Hutton Aug 2019
Karin, in my t-shirt, standing
eternal in the doorframe,
saddle-stitching the smell
of juniper with the gentle
caress of her damp hair,
plucked white, shaved clean
and there's music, it's a Saturday,
there's a wind careening through
the pines, a steady rain picking
at the windowsill, and I want
to hold time, to dissipate its march,
to let the love between us linger,
to indulge the soft pang of desire
indefinitely, to eek out of my borders,
to blend, to float above my body,
above Karin, to see it all with such
clarity, to return to form, to bend,
to worship, to stay, to stay in this
small room, to stay in this twin bed,
tangled, poor, blissed out, cherished,
tethered.
Aug 2019 · 97
Dead Dog Two
JJ Hutton Aug 2019
You pose him, your child, with the dog, the puppy,
the one your wife insisted you buy for him, your child,
your only son. You stand back. Your wife counts down
from three. Your child smiles in such an unnatural way
like he learned to do it from an instructional manual.
Something about this unnerves you. The posing. The
stilted smile. You made this child, your only son, and
he's five feet removed from you and his face is unnatural,
a caricature of joy. The puppy barks once. It echoes in the small
living room, and you can't help but think of this photo
as a marker, another tangible step closer to your own death.
Wait.
You reframe. You say this is a moment. This is something to
cherish. This is something to look back on. Your wife says
good boy and scratches the puppy behind the ears.
She kisses your child, your only son, on the forehead.
But, of course, one day this dog will die. With any luck, you, your wife, and your only son will live to see this day and this moment
will reemerge and your wife will say he was a good boy and your
son will say he was so small and you'll feel this same dread -- the posing, the stilted smile -- you'll feel it all fresh. How many tiny tragedies can a man anticipate? How many tiny tragedies
can a man endure?
JJ Hutton May 2019
And if you won't go down,
can I at least get you in my down line?
Let me appoint. Fast food crown.
The children are sleeping. Uncork the wine.
Slide a ******* under the gouda.
Glasgow smile and Instagram this opportunity.
I could recite the medication, but I shouldn't.
You want to watch something? Ever seen Community?
There's an art to being 30 and single.
There's cream for every wrinkle.
There's a sin in need of a kindle.
There's, for everything, a fee--it's simple.
May 2019 · 105
No Plan
JJ Hutton May 2019
Reciprocate, the cornerstone,
pile up the keepsakes,
the more refined the technology,
the more Vaudeville the ****** mistakes,
but that doesn't mean I'm immune
to tenderness--I could use some tenderness.
Tenderly now, your words, the soft words,
bring them to me in the sacred hours,
while the apartment complex sleeps deep.
Sing the soft words, your body supine
on the balcony. Stick your little fingers
in my mouth and draw out the side effects.
Project the man I once was back onto me
so that I might sew myself to the outline.
In your perfected feminine way, overestimate
my competence and build a life atop
the old man, the old me, the recurring me.
Warm yourself with thoughts of children,
of silver, of gold, of the roots of human desire
that split the ground and fuse with your feet.
May 2019 · 246
No Key
JJ Hutton May 2019
You clawed your way past death
and clipped your fingernails in
that living room of overwhelming beige.
There were two couches that intersected
perpendicularly at the arms,
one for you, one for me.
With the sunlight scattering
through the blinds, we talked
less to each other and more to
the television. In an effort
to get enough sleep before work,
we'd retire to the bedroom.
Our legs would intertwine. Licorice vines.
I'd pleasure myself. You'd pleasure
yourself. I'd sneak your collar bone
a kiss and bury my sweating forehead
in the crook of your neck. Am I soft
enough for you? you'd say.
Time moved in such a labored way,
as each stained the other in an attempt
to stake a claim.
Stay awhile, I'd respond.
If you don't mind, stay awake a little longer.
Apr 2019 · 129
Pick Up
JJ Hutton Apr 2019
Some passive form of vengeance
courses through
against taboo, against the denial of touch
and I take it, the vengeance, on someone
needing to be used, to be an object,
to be of use,
and I feel something akin to remorse
and grab a towel and excuse myself
and sink deeper into
this middleplace, where everything
is balanced, the worst parts of me,
the best parts of me,
and I sing--can you believe it?--I sing
a song you know and don't like
in the shower and everything slows
down--by everything I mean the narrative,
the lies I tell myself to still love myself--
and I say it, "Goodbye," before heading out
to meet the sun, to enter a house of worship,
to worship the little god that resides in me,
to pull the strings and watch it all fall into
place.
Apr 2019 · 116
All Melody
JJ Hutton Apr 2019
In the scattered night, down from Trinity Bay,
where the primary schoolers kiss under the docks,
I cup my hands; I gather sand; I drink the sand.
I name every grain, every star. I'm vibrating.
Transforming. I'm floating above myself--this is a
defense mechanism, a necessary one, a beautiful
one. Tonight, I want to live. I want to live all the
time. I want a dark-haired woman to coddle me.
I want a dark-haired woman to kick my ***.
I want a dark-haired woman to wear me thin,
wear the endings of my nerves smooth. Transfigured
salt, transfigured sand, transfigured sky. You may want
to write this down. You may want to record this. I'm going
to breathe myself backward; I'm going to become handsomer,
stronger, younger. I'm full bottle, I'm chime, I'm breeze.
Wait. Listen. You might just delight in me.
Mar 2019 · 103
All My Christian Friends
JJ Hutton Mar 2019
I'm losing it, the composure, in living rooms,
surrounded by friends, rooms with multiple
televisions, honey-stacked on top of each other
so the husband can game and the wife can
watch The Office for the hundredth time.
And they talk, with absolute seriousness,
about which Harry Potter house they'd
be in. And they talk love languages.
And they talk enneagrams.

And I notice how I've become the object of their sentences.
And I notice how I'm there to be some fringe prop,
someone to say what they want to say, someone
to project themselves back onto themselves,
without fear of divine punishment.
Mar 2019 · 99
Toluca Lake
JJ Hutton Mar 2019
It was a year that looked good on checks,
at the top of every newspaper: 2013.
I grew thin running laps around Toluca
Lake, thinking the whole time it was a poor substitute
for the ocean. I was employed and in love in
Oklahoma City. I was unemployed and alone
in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Everything was blind.
Everything was deaf, my desire buried in salt
and coffee lingered on my breath. 2013. I'm younger.
I'm stronger. I'm persistent and there's an actual comb in my actual hair.
And I'd pass by you like a jewelry store window, my mind
half a brick. Shatter the modest glass. Mazel tov? Do you know what
that means? What good fortune. Why do they say what good
fortune? It's a compact lesson in reframing. And I frame myself
for ******. And I frame myself on the refrigerator. And I frame
my last check. And I frame my arguments on my back, in a swimming
pool, thinking of Toluca Lake.
Mar 2019 · 104
My Baby Is an Antivaxxer
JJ Hutton Mar 2019
My baby's got the weight of the world
carved into her brow and you can see
it for yourself; she cuts her own bangs.

She loves me tall, she loves me thin, she
loves me in what she calls an "Ethiopian way";
you can see it for yourself in the dark corners of
the internet.

She holds the Guinness-certified record for the
highest use of the hashtag "#vegan." I believe
her when she says cheese is the unitary measure
of loneliness. I'm sure you do too.

She used to substitute teach for Cameron Christian.
She'd take selfies with autistic children and some
called her profane and some called her dangerous
but I thought her posts about the effects of vaccinations
made her seem so in touch with the world, so pure in spirit.

And on those slow nights when we're in bed
with the incense hanging above us, between
her considerations of transitioning into a man
and her considerations of starting an alpaca rescue,
I think about how winning the lottery would be
a disappointment.
Mar 2019 · 81
Solo Tour
JJ Hutton Mar 2019
You admired the bruised yellow of the
light-polluted sky as we came to Fifth and Harbinger.
You said the day refused to die, the day
was an aspiring week, and your hand was
in mine. Even moment to moment, those times with
you felt like an era. You used to pull records
out of their sleeves and examine their condition.
I dressed like a professor, and for one and only one
season in my life, I desired someone just as they were.

My walk is anxious now, my body entire fearful that it will
fall into your gaze.

The tweed has transfigured into rhinestone. There's a microphone
stitched into the fabric and I'm always on record. I talk
in a deliberate way, like a tv preacher trying to be authentic.
I'm afraid you'll hear my voice. I'm afraid you won't hear my voice.

If you found a splinter of the man you once loved, could you bend and warp it? Could you recreate your desire?

One day. One week. One season.
Jan 2019 · 93
County Line
JJ Hutton Jan 2019
I'm on the way,
if you take the long way,
past the Arlington Cemetary,
where the babies of the
influenza epidemic do sleep,
down from the ancient cedars
and the ruins of the Winchester Bank
established in 1908.

I'm on the way,
if you take the long way,
past the snaking and rusting
barbed wire of the Scott Place,
where my father chopped cotton
and his father died under the weight
of a fallen log and his father died
to the backfire of a shotgun.

I'm on the way,
if you take the long way,
past the Cimarron River and idle wheat fields,
where my mother once watched the dust
roll in and the money blow away,
down from the birthplace of
a serial killer you've heard about,
down from a quiet, flybuzz pace
that so often inspires rage.
Jan 2019 · 624
How to Exit the Affair
JJ Hutton Jan 2019
1

You will avoid overcomplimenting. Stick to phrases
eeked of desire—smart blouse, handsome family.

You will find a chair. Tilt your head until you've
found the ceiling. Let discomfort loom. Let her speak.

Don't respond right away. Make her second guess her words.
Let her try to ramble out of it on a macro level. Let her dwell
on the micro miscalculations in silence.

Give it some time. Respond.
But calibrate. Be indirect, detached. "I'm here, aren't I?"

2

Don't encourage sentimentality or nostalgia.

When she brings up the early days—and she'll bring up the early days—remind her of your many failures in kindness.

The time she called from the psych ward and you told her you were busy should work. Or when you made her walk home after
the big fight. Or when you introduced her as a friend.

3

Here, she'll take your hand and guide it along her soft features.

Oblige.

Focus on the way you take her in. Give her a jagged gaze.
Don't relent.

Undress yourself. Do this without intro or segue or ceremony.

Comment on her alkaline and citrus taste. Drift five feet above yourself and watch it happen.

4

Laying tangled in the aftermath of blankets and sheets, ask her
about her husband.

Ask her about her drinking.

Ask her about her son's new school.

Ask her about her prescriptions, the side effects.

5

Take the long way home. Grab the brown belt to go with the brown shoes. Drink water. Lots of water. Eggs, not cereal.

Show up early to work. Appear eager and sincere in your every
task.

Blend.
Jan 2019 · 490
Geyser
JJ Hutton Jan 2019
Find the muck, I do;
pull my shoes off, I do.
I feel it, the muck,
tethering and I feel
competition pulsating.
Competition against what?
Against the water that surrounds,
I guess;
Against the mud between my toes,
I guess.
I missile off it, the ocean floor,
careening upward, and I missile
the bright fishes in my wake.
My wake?
I attended it, you could say;
I got over it, you could say.
And I could stop here, the surface,
floating face down.
But what of the alternative?
An appetite for oxygen, I have;
a heavenly itch, I have.
A skyward geyser, I could be;
a bolt of lightning in reverse, stand back, see.
Jan 2019 · 100
Deep Water
JJ Hutton Jan 2019
Now, underwater, sound turns itself
inside out. I aim myself
toward the floor of the pool
but my pruned hands never
find it. Down down down.
Deep water. As quickly
as fear arrives, it's traded
for confusion; confusion,
for abandon; abandon, for peace.
Down here, I barely am.
The weight of my body erodes.
Watch me stingray. Watch me dolphin.
Watch me ball up into stone.
Watch me sink.
Listen for my whale song.
Wait for me to geyser.
JJ Hutton Nov 2018
Shirtless and floating in the hotel pool,
staring at the hotel ceiling.
I'm waiting.

A permanent pace and temperature hold here.
The desk clerk tip-toes into the room on occasion,
up to the ladder, and whispers, as if she might wake me,
"Are you sure you still don't need anything?"

It's 11 p.m. The pool closed at 10.

I raise a hand and she tip-toes back to the desk.

I'm waiting. I'm floating on my back. The ceiling
is ornate, beautiful. Flourishes interlock and repeat.

I haven't said a word in three days. The first day
was unintentional and only realized as I crawled into
bed. The second day came easy, felt meditative. Now
my silence is another obligation.

I used to feel sorry for myself. On a different occasion,
I lived with such reckless intensity.

Now, I'm trying to raise my credit score.

I want to trace the ceiling. I'm shirtless, floating, waiting.
I'm on my back.

I imagine this is what god must feel like,
this removed, this gone, a spectator, impotent
and waiting.

I bring my shoulder blades in and sink. I'm underwater.
I'm underwater and the ceiling distorts. I'm underwater
and the desk clerk is nowhere to be found. I'm underwater,
shirtless, staring, waiting.
JJ Hutton Nov 2018
Zigzag the stitch
and rub a little jelly

rickshaw fresh
mama to baby

turnstile linen and
swaddle

good times
soon to follow

simulcast the
charged circumstance

mother, verdant
mother, vessel
mother, hollow

forecast past
the sleepless
and bloodless

fixate on
first steps, first days,
first sorrows

dumbfounded fully
by where it all started

adulthood summoned
by a little ****** and folly.
Nov 2018 · 1.1k
Hanger-On
JJ Hutton Nov 2018
In Room 204 of the Lancaster Motel,
I ease myself into the bath.
Music plays. It's the kind
of pan flute and finger-picked
guitar tune you hear over fuzzed out speakers
in grocery stores. I don't know the source.
The place smells of mildew
and cheap coffee and self pleasure
and Febreeze. I'm tired.
More tired than I've ever been, I think.
Do I still have a job? Until I call in to check, I suppose.
And I suppose this pocket knife will have to do.
I never seem to have a corkscrew on hand when
my mood calls for wine. I stab and jimmy the cork
until I can pry it loose with my teeth. A few
bits of cork float on the surface of the wine.
This does not stop me, nor slow me.
Pollyanna and I stayed in 206,
a detail that calls attention to itself, a detail that
longs for a poetic phrase,
yet I feel little other than the
dull thud of coincidence.
I remember asking her
before that first time if
she thought of *** as
a form or erasure or
addition. She said
both sounded nice.
And something
in the way she said nice,
led me to believe
she landed on an unspoken
third option.  I no
longer had an appetite for *** that evening,
but we acted on it to satisfy expectation.
She turned down the air conditioner,
and we laid there shivering and saying little.
She told me not to leave her.
I said I wouldn't.
I'm in the tub now and the bottle is almost empty
and all of this is so selfish and stupid
and I'm just doing it for the sake of habit
and sad sack poetry and ultimately
an "I-Eat-*****" consolation fedora in heaven. And I'm
self aware but the trajectory spirals against my will.
And my life entire burns a little slapstick,
so I get outside of myself--watch, enjoy.
Oct 2018 · 213
Where There's a Hex
JJ Hutton Oct 2018
It's a cool Monday, October, and I want to send you a *****
little text for old times' sake;
summon you with a spring of the finger,
an autumn of the tongue.
Shake me, will you? Center me back. Flay me on the table.
The life domestic's got me blue again.
Where there's a will, there's a hotel room;
where there's a hex, there's an incantation.
Spill, fantasy. Melt the collar. Drift the tide.
This fix is temporary; this fix is inadequate;
this fix isn't much as far as fixes go.
Cuff me anyways. We'll figure the
rest in the morning.
Oct 2018 · 1.4k
Smoov
JJ Hutton Oct 2018
There he waits,
the Nice Guy,
looking academic
and out of reach
in his tweed.

There's something
feminine in the way
he crosses his legs,
draping right over left in the fainting chair.

There you are, across from
him, at this party your
roommate dragged you to.
And you ask how he is.

He ushers you to his chair.
Sit down, sit down. I insist.
You know, he says. Most people
would tell you they're good or just fine.

The Nice Guy reassures you he is
not most people. He's a Nice Guy;
he's down with feminism, waves
One through Three.

He has a dog named Atticus.
They frequent open-air bars
in the summer.

He's a Nice Guy, an old soul,
someone who should have been
a young man in the 60s.

God, he has so many female friends
he tells you, leaning on the banister,
sipping on Glenfiddich.

You wonder how he is. This was your question.

He has so many female friends. Notice
how I'm stressing the word friends, he says.

I do, you say.

He's a Nice Guy and all these female friends
they're all the same. They love the bad boys,
the rich snobs, the ******* jocks.

I don't, you say.

Oh, sure you do, he Nice Guy-splains to you.
And there's a golden light coming from the chandelier
behind him, and he looks so holy and pure as he tells
you how one day Tara, Sam, Whitney, and Amber
will wake the **** up and realize just what they're missing.

But by then, this Nice Guy will have rambled on. He'll become
someone's second husband. A Good Woman will see how precious, how rare this Nice Guy truly is.

Okay, you say.

Prove me wrong, the Nice Guy says. He leans in closer.
You can smell the scotch. Prove me wrong.
Oct 2018 · 1.4k
Conversation VIII
JJ Hutton Oct 2018
Yeah, I guess you could say that. I seem to be past the hex. I have a job again, one I like. I'm teaching. But I can't help but hear that song from Wizard of Oz play over and over in my head. No. Ha ha. I wish it were that one. No, it's the one that kicks up as they leave the poppy field. "You're outta the woods, you're outta the woods." That song is so hopeful yet undercut by something looming, inevitable, a bigger fall to come.

Sure, I still think of her.

But what I was getting at earlier is that I feel like I'm at this point in my life, this middleplace, where the abstraction of love, the mysticism of the body, all of that ****** fog seems to be clearing. The people around me are plucked white, devoid of any raw, genuine sentiment. They view the body in a way so clinical. I only hear of its limitations or its capacity to bear children.

Peter Pan Syndrome? Maybe. But if the body is reduced to its most rudimentary boundaries and functions and not treated as an instrument of erasure or alchemy, then what's the point?

Yes, she and I talked about kids, but that was always so far away. At this point, I don't know that I want them. Her? That's hard to say. I'll concede that the happiest moments of my life involve her. But, and I see the irony here, on some fundamental, unsexy level, we enabled poor behaviors, addictions. We both suffered from depression and didn't know how to dig each other out.

I never see her in a negative light though. You look surprised. I don't. There she is and there are all other women. She's fifty feet tall in my mind. A femme titan. Whipsmart, funny, kind.
JJ Hutton Oct 2018
There'll be a crowd encircling you, I'm sure.
They'll nod at your every word, imperfectly mimicking
what people look like when they actually listen.
I'm sure the crowd will be people we know.
Old high school friends with real estate ventures
and gyms and multi-level marketing schemes.
Most of them will be doughier, their cheeks permanently
stained red from a decade of drinking.
Most of them will have photos of their kids on their phones,
and they'll tell you they're "sure you don't want to see them"
as they pull out their phones and show you photos of their kids.

I imagine I'll approach, stop just short of the circle, pretend to bid on an Alaskan cruise.

As you talk about redoing your floor in a faux tile that looks just like the real thing for like half the price, you'll see me.

I hope you'll think of that kiss five years ago, outside of a bar in Norman, when the world entire bent for us, when all traffic silenced for us, when all people vanished for us.

Maybe you'll think of the time we ****** in a twin-sized bed, beside a wall decorated with newspaper clippings, which I thought made me look worldly and learned. I admit now the look was less academic, more serial killer.

And maybe you'll think of the manchild fit I threw when I found out you had moved on after I moved away.

And maybe you'll be totally present. Good to see you, you'll say. You will ask about my family. We will discuss the cooler weather. We will talk about your business, your kids. We will side hug and say goodbye. We will take the same route to the same exit. There will be children coloring the sidewalk with chalk. We'll each borrow a piece. I'll outline you; you'll outline me.
JJ Hutton Apr 2018
Still hexed, unemployed, another daylong bout
between too much silence and too much noise,
a sweetness opens the hymnal: sing, rejoice.

And I'm an American male child, born in 1990.
Summon me a moment, Effexor one-fifty,
instant nostalgia, a natural reaction.

Polly Anna, hailing from Tulsa, has a key.
She's in my robe, dancing on the balcony.
And we're not drinking
as much as we used to be, yet talking
baby names by three.

And I can feel it, a future good memory
unfolding in real time. Her dark shape,
growing darker, shadows from bedroom
to bathroom and back again.

Oh, the profane things we whisper
to get ourselves out of character,
unguarded, empty-headed, free.

The notes of trained movement,
of calibrated ****** phrase, harmonize.
The walls, the lamp, the bedside table,
the mattress, the blankets—the room entire
converges.

My name takes on two more syllables.
Her name becomes soundless.
Hold time. Bend, baby. Boundless.
JJ Hutton Apr 2018
Still hexed, unemployed, another daylong bout between too much silence and too much noise, I turn on the TV and watch our show. Season 4, Episode 13, "Whitecaps."

And it's the scene after the Russian mistress has called, and Carmella—played to long suffering perfection by Edie Falco—kicks Tony out of the house. The scene sticks with me, the way Carmella's body shakes, the deep grooves of her wrinkled face when she says she can't stand to be embarrassed anymore. And I'm caught off guard by two things, one simple, the other not so much. I think about how you must of related to Edie Falco out of the gate, on a surface level. You both share a prominent nose, one you were always self conscious about, but a nose you found beautiful on her face. I always wanted to ask you about it, but I never found a gentle enough phrasing. And the other thing, the complex thing, is how the whole scene runs parallel to our second break up, the bad one, the early morning fight. I remember you striking my chest over and over. I remember grabbing your wrists, trying to restrain you, and you wriggled out of my grasp only to strike your head on a cabinet. I tried to comfort you, and you wouldn't let me drive you home.

You walked. I couldn't find you. By the time I got dressed, you'd found some path unknown to me.

Gentle enough phrasing. That's why it ended one, two, three times, isn't it? My inability to be straight with you, to say how I truly felt without massaging the words to safeguard against any conflict.

I wish I could watch the show with you again. I wish it was 9:00 p.m. I wish we both had work in the morning. I wish we'd watch one episode too many with the dogs snuggling in our laps. I wish we could listen to them paw at the bedroom door as we undressed.

But we've jettisoned ourselves, haven't we? It's irreparable. I think of something you said about depression. You told me that when it was bad, really bad, you could never feel clean. I don't feel clean, no matter how much I wash. I don't feel clean, no matter the quality of deed, the grace of the statement, the preciousness of a future good memory unfolding in real time.
Mar 2018 · 318
What We Know Best
JJ Hutton Mar 2018
The rains came. The road called.
And the cities we coursed through on the way to Ulysses,
to Broken Bow, didn't they always seem to be waiting on a change, longing for us, as if time moved only at the sway of our arms?

The rains came. The road called.
And there was a sanctuary of our own, a quiet place to lay our heads and listen, always listen, to nature's nightsong. How many mornings did we awake to find a new sweet creature in need of a home?  

The rains came. The road called.
And we stopped counting the number of wheat fields we had walked, the caves we had explored, the antique stores we had perused, the cups of coffee we had poured.

The rains came. The road called.
And there were hospital visits, both of joy and joy's opposite.
Time did what time does best, shaping and reshaping the people
we love—and that's what we know best, isn't it? Love.

The rains can come and the roads can call,
and we delight in what we know of love.
Look, love is not a flower with a single season.
Love conjures prehistoric time.
We love not as two,
but as all the men and women who have gone before.
Fathers rest in our bones like mountain ruins.
Mothers carry our blood like river beds.
And the moments that brought us here,
could we even discern the major from the minor?
Why would we diffuse love of its wild alchemy?
Love rivers through us, guided by every path and climate a fate improbable, beautiful, holy, endless, intrepid, guarding, forgiving.
Feb 2018 · 2.9k
Conversation VII
JJ Hutton Feb 2018
It was an—I don't know—unfleshing of sorts. There I am. I'm in my old room. My parent's place. And Mom's telling me what all we need to pack up and organize. This place, my room, it's frozen in time. It looks exactly the way it did when I graduated high school. The lime green walls, the Brett Favre poster, a few pieces of artwork my brother did. There are all these medals and trophies for soccer; football; academic *******; and most of it, to be frank, was undeserving. I phoned it in, my education and extra curriculars. Things came easy, et cetera. And the lesser accolades, the participation trophies, for these, Mom hands me a pocket knife and tells me to pry off the nameplates and she'll donate them to Goodwill. It was tangible, right? This erasure. I've talked to you about that before, erasure. I wanted to disappear completely, but there I am in my old room, prying away pieces of my past with a knife, a couple of nameplates popping off and hitting the floor before I can grab them. That sound, dull, empty, metallic.

I'm alone a lot now, you know? After losing the job, entering this funk, gaining weight. I'm in a depressive state. In that room, I felt like I was just further removing myself from the world, like my deletion had gained dimension, it was truly, ****, what word am I looking for here? Help me. Comprehensive. That's good. Sterile and safe for work. My erasure became comprehensive. Ha.

And it's hard to talk about this, depression, erasure. I always feel like a selfish child. I'm perpetually throwing a fit. I won't clean my room. I don't want to brush my teeth. I don't want to help grandma with lunch. Ha ha.

You say that. And I appreciate it. But if I always talked to you about this stuff, you'd stop answering the phone. Or I'd feel so guilty about bothering you that I'd stop calling. This feeling gets you from both sides. It's like that old adage. Never chew on something that's eating you. But that's precisely what I'm doing. In this moment. Outside of this moment. I want to ask you how do I stop. But what could you possibly say. Stop thinking about it. Find a hobby. Exercise. Read. Journal. Go to therapy. You could smile while you told me these things, you could pat my hand, you could finish your coffee, and you could walk out the door to face your own little tragedies, feeling like you'd done something kind today, check the box, score some karma. You see all those recommendations are tired, generic; they're surface level, phony. What would I prefer? I think if you threw that coffee in my face that'd be a start.
Aug 2017 · 1.5k
Don't Touch My Bikini
JJ Hutton Aug 2017
You can rate me,
You can bait me,
You can freight me,
You can strait me,
Simulate me,
Even better
Drop a roofie,
Game a debtor.
You're so groovy, misbehaving,
Misbehaving,
Give it to me,
Trouble waiting,
Fascinating,
Always mating,
You can wake me,
You can slave me,
You can grade me,
You can shave me,
Integrate me,
I pulsating
A new navy,
All the skimmings,
Underpinning
Jehovah's witness,
Keep on stalking,
Better fitness,
Keep on shocking,
Shell is thinning,
Gettin' gotten,
Rot 'n' reeling.

Don't touch my bikini.
Better smile when you see me,
You can stare
That's a freebie.
Don't touch my bikini.
Looking is free,
But touching's gonna cost you
Something.

Smooth and lanky,
Hanky panky,
Got no treat or
New York Yankee,
Super leader,
Count to seven,
Go to Paris,
Break the leaven,
Roger Maris,
Bleed the Czar,
Shooting star,
You're so levy,
You're so sunny,
Getting ready,
Here's the money,
Socking heady,
Making honey,
Toasting herons,
That's not funny,
Waiter Betty,
Way too ****,
You're so on it,
You're so honest,
You can fool me,
You remold me,
All the preachers never told me,
Heavy breathing
Punting reason,
Welcome season.

Don't touch my graffiti.
Smile if you dare,
Oily oinkers everywhere.
Keep watching, you graffiti.
Next time you'll learn
That touching's gonna cost you
Something.
JJ Hutton Jul 2017
I found a way to make it painless, to make god good, to make myself good, to make myself god—me—Joshua Jerome Hutton, sound familiar?  

God I hope so.

I found a way to make it painless in the checkout line, while the bleary-eyed maidens of South Moore, one in front, one behind, talk 3 a.m. rallies and resurrections right through me.

I found a way to make it painless at the eternal stoplight, watching the eternal Vietnam veteran in eternal rags holding eternal cardboard, summoning crumpled bills from anyone other than me.

I found a way to make it painless during the photo shoot, a way to place my chin so thoughtfully in my hand, a way to look into the middle-distance, a way to imply self-deprecation, a way to find near perfection—only under ample light, of course.

I found a way to make it painless in the soup queue, amongst my fellow unshaven, shamed naked, shamed to the bone, shamed pure, shamed to one flybuzz drive: I must consume.

I found a way to make it painless, to make it to the center of the white space, to suspend, inking out the worst parts of me, an all caps ATTRACTION, impossible to pinpoint, all for the review of books and the cabal of the slowed-down and insane still reading the review of books.

I found a way to make it painless by never breaking eye contact nor speaking a word as you talk yourself deeper into what you hate about yourself, and I stir my drink with a black cocktail straw, and I clear my throat, and I hahaha to myself, and I say these little issues just seem like problems. Just wait. You just wait.

I found a way to make it painless, to eek out of my own borderlines, to meld with the air and chemtrail across the sky, to observe from a holy distance the tightrope walker, the controlled demolition, the desperate young men lagging five feet behind the elusive loves of their lives, firing every clever phrase, hoping for one to land, to glean one little pause, a moment to catch up, and here, I must admit, it gives me great relief to be this removed, this far gone, this far god.
Jul 2017 · 561
The Transfiguration
JJ Hutton Jul 2017
Per your wishes, I transfigured.
I became the door and everything
that ever walked through.
I became the telephone and all
those voices talking honey inside.
I became the beech, both felled
and otherwise, for the comfort required.
I became the floor and all the music
summoned by teenagers to pass the night.
I became daddy's car keys and the
opportunities afforded in that low-lit suburb.
I became the pale blue eyes reflecting you
back into yourself.
Per your wishes, I transfigured
into all the things you've had but
couldn't keep.
Jul 2017 · 471
White Jeans
JJ Hutton Jul 2017
There's always this time limit, isn't there?
You have to notice the moment, listen for it.
And if this isn't the moment—you in white jeans,
you in your new bra, this fashion show—
I don't care to gamble on another.
And you say his name for the first time outright.
And you talk about your son, your feet on
the coffee table. Me, I'm in the kitchen mixing
drinks.
I can't just stand here, ******* staring at
two ****** marys, cut lemons, cut celery, forever.
I'm fifteen feet from you. I know this for certain.
I measured the distance before you arrived.
And your son is saying "bird" now. Is this still
the moment? Or has it evaporated? My feet move,
no need of my permission. I set the drinks down.
You've been drinking too much lately, you say.
And I'm beside you on a couch that still smells of smoke.
Did I tell you about my apartment fire in March?
Your toenails are painted blue white red.
There's a sound you make when you're truly
contented, when you smile for real. Does he notice it?
Can I tell you about a miracle? I ask.
You don't say a word; you don't make the sound.
I used to fantasize about you, about you in various
states of undress, in a myriad of positions.
You'd breathe such profane words into me,
and that got me through, got me through a couple
of years. And you're here now. It's actionable—to
use a word I hate. And I'm looking at your toes, your legs,
these unbelievably cruel jeans. And this is selfish,
but all I can think about is what if I die? What happens
to this side of you, this side I've created? Object of desire,
plaything, et cetera, I know.
I struggle to find the right words.
I've made you into this beacon, the person I want to be with, the place I want to be, but if I'm removed from the equation by death or distance, will you still be centered? Will you still
be adored? I don't know. You should say something, take a drink, anything.
Apr 2017 · 616
She Says
JJ Hutton Apr 2017
Full moon, raw denim, and I'm back all. Google "Men's Hairstyle 2017" and oblige myself. Low faded. Enough on top. Something to grab onto. Pantomiming a stripper's routine on every other streetlight. This is me now. I've acquired an English accent. And I've become quite knowledgable in the ways of brandy. Three drinks in. Settle down. Slow burn. Whisper. I could carve up the fog, I could make this moment holy, I recognize her and could acknowledge it. Look into my eyes and wait for it. She says. She says my eyes are gray. I gently tell her gray isn't an eye color and we're off, shitkicking through this door chime city on a Wednesday, we're on and off the level. She goes white when I fall. I fall on Griffin Street. I scrape. I scrape my knee and the blood runs in rivulets and falls, spaced and reticent to the ground. There's this bar, I say, this bar goes empty around midnight. I want to take you there. She says, What are you looking for? I might be able to help you find it.

I'm looking for rain on a Saturday morning window. I'm looking for someone to paint wearing nothing but tall socks in my living room. Someone who insists on hyphenating her last name. Oils. She should be using oils. I'm looking to be hexed, to be chained. I've dulled, you know? I've become fat with routine. I've become fat with casual ***. I need to hand over—I don't know the best word for it—control, maybe?

We've tried that all before, she says.

I'm nostalgic for it. I get that way. Now and again.

Nostalgia, she says. You can't double back on time, can't control its ebb.

I don't need a takeaway. You asked what I was looking for. I answered.

It's out of your reach.

Say it again. Let me prove you wrong.

I'm not in the mood for this.

So much hangs on the word of a woman. I feel like I've been waiting my whole life for the right words to fall from your lips. Every interaction charged and then diffused when the actual words arrive. I would say anything to you, anything for you.

That's why so little hangs on the word of a man.
Mar 2017 · 1.2k
Piano on a Runway
JJ Hutton Mar 2017
Glancing around that neverplace, the airplane cabin,
indulging that edge-of-time feeling,
your head resting on the cool window,
you see her.
She rolls a piano onto the tarmac.
You wait to be bused to the takeoff starting line.
She's fuzzy in the distance, a soft shape getting softer,
in a blue hoodie and blue jeans, perhaps barefoot.
No one stops her.
You feel like someone should.
A dry swift wind beats across the flats.
She stops pushing, the piano in a suitable place.
A man in an orange vest drags a row of stairs behind the piano.
She sits on the third step, lifts the fall board.
You cannot see her hands. She's playing now.
A noisy collective boredom surrounds the cabin.
And yet this. Just outside.
From your vantage, it's not music, nor is it spectacle.
It's suppressed beauty, a dimmed surprise,
and your hands ache and you long for the wind,
for her bright song, for a brief dance
beyond this inconsiderable window.
Mar 2017 · 988
Alamo Idiot Stand
JJ Hutton Mar 2017
And he's provocative, a provocateur, a beacon of free speech and foul speech and vague speech and pointed speech, pacing the Conference Room Alamo on the ground floor of the Hilton, testing his lapel mike, asking the crowd of eighty, ninety to move to the front rows, and he mouths something to the photographer, a dreadlock'd skin and bones white boy, and the photographer flanks the crowd, angling the shot to solidify the intended narrative: he is a provocateur, a popular provocateur, a staunch opponent of political correctness (which this bystander must note strangely equates to a champion of hate speech), a former poster child for the alt-right, but—and quoting here—he says, "I cannot be pigeonholed," and perhaps that's it, the secret to his former success, his viral, shapeless nature, a terrorist of language and persona, and perhaps that's it, the secret to his demise, his shape forming, his identity emerging from the podcast ghettos and GOP speaking gigs, and he's on the stage and he's in all white and this is intentional, this is the redemption tour, the other-side tour, and the crowd claps now as he pumps his arms (at this point in the presentation they used to shout, I should point out), and he calls Hillary Clinton "Satan's ingrown *******," and the men in the audience laugh and pant and cough, and he spends fifteen minutes on fake news and hit pieces and the nuance of video editing and how liberal snowflakes won't stop protesting his appearances (for clarity here, there were no protestors at this event), and he wraps everything rather quickly (especially for the $150 ticket price) and says he has a minute for questions, and a young man, twenty-five or so, asks for tips on becoming the God King of Internet Trolls, and he, the popular provocateur, says, "Ah. The next generation is coming up from behind."
Dec 2016 · 1.3k
The Misfit
JJ Hutton Dec 2016
In Farmington the misfit suffers the jukebox and dances to an unknown song. He dances on the pool table. He wears black—black skull cap, black
duster, black shirt, black slacks, black boots. He's in Farmington and
the women here drink Bud Light. He dances slow. It's similar to a dance
you've seen before. You have that friend that climbs on couches after a few and half staggers, half sways. The women here watch him with unhappy eyes and hands stained blue from the textile mill. He seems to mouth the words although he clearly doesn't know the song. They, the women, dig their elbows into the bar. Pocked and graffiti'd, the bar soaks up spilled beer and ash and nail polish. Behind the bar a sign reads: Free Beer Tomorrow. And for some reason, you must admit, this sign's effect never dulls. The Misfit pantomimes a dance with a pool cue. His face is severe, serious. He's in Farmington dancing with a pool cue on a pool table to a song he doesn't know like a drunk friend of yours and the women are watching. Next, he does something amazing. He removes his cap. He's got shocks of bleached hair and burn scars run like rivulets between the patches. He tosses the cap toward the bar. One lucky woman catches it and summons herself to the pool table. You want them to have a bit of dialogue here, to say something oblique and innocent. Instead the lucky woman dances at the man's feet. He surrenders a smile and he's got small tracts of bleached hair and burn scars and he's in all black and he's dancing. The lucky woman, she's in a canary yellow patch dress. Her dance, although clumsy, still mesmerizes you. It's without ego, without shame. She is a child. She is the light in the room. She is, in this moment, the world entire. He pulls her onto the table. It's time to appoint the Misfit and the lucky woman names, you think. His name shall be Joshua. Her name shall be Anna. Palms together, her head resting on his chest, they sway. The smoke and the tracers of light meld and Joshua and Anna's outlines become muddied. Their bodies merge and they are both yellow and black and covered in burn scars and bleached hair and the women are still watching. As the song starts to fade, someone—maybe it's you—drops a few coins in the jukebox and it begins again.
Nov 2016 · 845
A Weaver Unwound
JJ Hutton Nov 2016
Forever, I touch the word, running my fingertips
along the coffee table we saved up for. Forever,
I whisper the word to the carpet where you
used to pin me down. Forever, I feel it on my chin,
I take it on the chin. Forever, we'll have sunshine,
little breaks in the fog. Forever, if I can even find you
then. Forever, the joke we said with wine-stained lips
and ash in our mouths. Forever, we dreamed each other
foreign and lived inside. Forever, the muse and never
the poet, the pen and never the paper, the writer and never the
reader. Forever, the way you talked down to me in t-shirts
too large for your shoulder blades. Forever, I take it on the chin.
Forever, the word, I feel it in my neck now. Forever, the affectation
in my voice, do you hear it now? Forever, the seeker in the company
of the sightless. Forever, the weaver. Forever, the weaver threading me into you. Forever, the weaver. Forever, the weaver winding me into you, unwinding me back into myself. Forever, the weaver, the ******* the dance floor, the tower of song, the siren, the sonnet, the beacon, the tower of song, the ******* the dance floor, the weaver, forever.
Nov 2016 · 793
F L O T U S
JJ Hutton Nov 2016
Better natured today than yesterday,
smelling less like cigarettes and more
like laundry detergent, you sit across
from your therapist at the bar and
ask for one more boilermaker.
You say, How do you desire what you already possess?

And your therapist says, Don't go down that drunk.
That's a bad drunk.

You're in a floral print A-line dress, one
you bought from your sister-in-law.
She's doing one of those multilevel marketing things
and though her Facebook posts make you want
to suicide yourself, she's happy and independent
and at home with her kids. Despite these lukewarm
feelings, you harbor some resentment as you finger
and thumb a seam that's already coming undone.

Sloane. Your husband keeps mentioning a woman
at the office named Sloane. You're at the bar,
almost alone, and promised yourself
you wouldn't think about Sloane. But here you are.
Sloane in a pencil skirt and stockings. Sloane
with a fresh ****** energy, the kind you can't
seem to summon, and you wonder why ***
is such an important thing. It's so brief,
forgettable, full of abject compromise.

*** is an inherently violent act, don't you think?
You say to the therapist.  

If your therapist hears you, he doesn't respond.
You don't repeat the question.

You watch yourself broadcast on the TV above the bar.
They're commenting on your hair and your arms
and going on and on about your likability.

Your therapist changes the mood. It's 6:30.
He gives the place a nighttime feel.
He kills a row of lights and turns on the
colored bulbs, the blues and greens.
The TV is turned down. The music is turned up.

This is what you've been waiting for, the lights, the music.
There's an hour before anyone really shows up. You can
close your eyes and drift.

Two or three drinks pass. A couple walks in.
You have your therapist put in for an Uber.

Maybe I've been asking the question the wrong way, you say.

Oh yeah? the therapist says.

Yeah. Maybe the question should be reversed.
Maybe the question should be
how do you remain desirable to the objects you possess?

That seems like a lot of work. Seems like you'd have no
sense of self. You'd always be bending.

I've been a plus one for a long time.
You say bending. But I wouldn't be
doing anything new. I already do all these things.
But I see them as a compromise. I'm just trying
to reframe, you know?

Why? your therapist asks.

You open your mouth and find no words. You smile. You say you've had too much. You're rambling. You're sorry. You better go.
Oct 2016 · 780
Polly in a Prius
JJ Hutton Oct 2016
I buy the gluten-free protein bar, peanut butter and chocolate, because this is who I am now. This is me. This is me as a lighthouse of personal fitness, a man of discipline, of a principle or two. And I surf only the most densely populated dating apps, looking—somewhat feverishly, I must admit—for a likeminded woman, a scholar, a child of the moon, a frequent quoter of the Dhammapada, an insatiable and acrobatic lover, and I imagine her driving the dark streets seeking me. Polly in a Prius. My future muse, near but out of reach. We'll reclaim the arts district. She'll piggyback to the open mike, her ****-me shoes clicking in her hand. We'll spend a year politicizing every ****** encounter. Consensual assaults in perpetuity. And she'll say I'm a white man. And she'll say I think this is my privilege. And she'll say she's into leather and she finds my *** offensive and she'll hold my head against the wall. And at the end, if there's an end, I imagine our naked bodies wrapped in a stained comforter, all of the desire spent. I imagine our minds sober and clear, wondering how we could have ever been so kinked out, so on fire for something, and yet so ******* unable to remember a single ****** or whether or not we transcended. I'll vacuum the apartment. Polly will take her Warhol prints, pack up the Prius, and go anywhere, anywhere not here. Seattle. Maybe Portland. A few weeks will pass, and I'll find a note in whatever book I'd been reading before she left. It'll say: I loved you to the max. I loved you to the max. I loved you to the max.
Sep 2016 · 719
Other Halves
JJ Hutton Sep 2016
Silver vein'd and shaking through.
The night oppresses me with a speed relentless
and a sound constant: the insect hum, the air conditioned rattle.
And I drop myself and I tuck myself and I sleep myself
as best I can.
And her hushed song, her morning song, her routine song,
while she plucked herself white and shaved herself clean,
enters the sacred corridors of my sleep. And her face burns
into my mind. Something religious. She's a godhead,
one who exists with or without my permission. And I'd
sing along with her if it weren't for the sleeping. But I'm
diffusing all responsibility and I'm creeping toward the center
of that otherworld, where logic and time bow to her
and who am I?
so I bow too.
The days of my old life, the ones well lived, bleed in
and the regrets smooth themselves out and I dab at
her makeup with a wet napkin and I say this:

Do you have any idea how many times I've said
I love you to an empty room?
Aug 2016 · 758
The Song of Longing
JJ Hutton Aug 2016
To be refleshed at the end of your last true summer,
to have fingertips—not your own—pry away the old
skin and charge the nerves of the new,
how could you plan something like that?
You're in a new body and in an old house.
The window unit moans. ***** clothes cover the floor.
He's more than fingertips now. He's uncombed hair.
He's shirtless and he's breath and he's in your mouth
and the taste is sweet, familiar, and just far enough away
to turn nameless and evaporate from where all names
originate: the tongue.

But he still delivers his tongue to you, your back arching,
you're a lost instrument singing, the notes bending, the
melody transforming, until God's refrain rings and ricochets
noiselessly in the chambers of your skull.
In space there is no center, you're always off to the side.

And he's there, at your side, and you both stare at the ceiling fan
and laugh. What else can you do? He is still. You are still.
He starts to say your name. No more words. We are home.
Jul 2016 · 869
I Diffuse
JJ Hutton Jul 2016
I buy a shirt, a blue shirt, a button down.
I drink a glass of wine, a red, a Malbec.
And I watch.
I stand still in the midst
of the St. Cloud Market.
The crowd—that singular being—
jostles and jockeys and talks
in broken English.
I chew gum, cinnamon gum, Nicorette.
I feel my habit inverting, bending, becoming mechanical.
And I must flirt and be moral
with the shopkeeper who looks a little
like me.
And I must revert to an irrational, emotional,
childlike state as I buy three pirated DVDs.

The crowd forms a circle instinctually.
Three women dance slowly in the center.
Paper falls from the sky, newsprint, a day old.

Gunfire, the sound of it, its slowing of time.
No one says a thing
and no one's feet make a sound and
every child is perfectly behaved
for one relentless moment.
Jul 2016 · 421
Conversation VI
JJ Hutton Jul 2016
It eats at me, this singular question. It repeats in my head, over and over—how can I desire what I already possess? I look at the books on my shelf and the coffee table, and I want to love them completely. I want to never buy another book. I look at the TV, a moderately sized HD set already obsolete, but what a fantastic machine it is, and though I've owned it for years, can I desire it? Or do I want something larger, something 4K? I'm trying to desire the objects I own, so when the day comes, when my singularity comes to an end, and I'm waiting for Her to come home, I will be lovesick, anxious, feverish, pure in my desire.

I've been in relationships and fantasized about one-off affairs. I've had one-off affairs and fantasized about something whole, something reliable.

This TV is watchable and this book is readable.

I think a woman is inherently better at desiring what's in her possession. She gives life, she creates, she's given to infrastructure, and future-building. A man destroys. A man conquers. A man stands in the corner of a room with a drink in his hand and recounts his destructions and conquests. You're a woman. Can you tell me how it's done?
Jul 2016 · 775
A Hipster Cautionary Tale
JJ Hutton Jul 2016
Every true crime documentary resides in me.
Binge used to be tied to drinking. The language, I think,
is evolving, and I walk the black part of town at
night on a double dare from a lady poet whose
lexical purview lies somewhere between her
**** and the moon. I'm a beacon of fairness,
fair trade coffee stains my teeth, my lenin pants
imported from Bali are ethically made, and I speak
in a respectable and thoughtful half whisper
like the women of the QVC.
I return to the loft free of gunshot wounds
and love my lady poet thin and love my lady poet
tall and she says confusion is the only sustainable
state of being and I say I can agree with that and
she says she's been thinking about transitioning
and I say into more responsibility at work? and she
says haha no. Into a man.
And three weeks later I watch her read a poem
entitled "Traffic My **** Transgender *** to Heaven,"
she goes home with one, two, three Sylvia Plath lookalikes,
and I get swabbed at the doctors and I get prescribed
a moderate dose of Effexor and I speak in high school
Spanish to my office crush — she's from Venezuela, I think.
Power. Control. Stockings, I tell her, I have a thing for stockings
and pink cotton socks. One more drink and I'll hit my
groove. Chill. Power. Control. Put on that soul song I like.
Didn't I do it, baby?
JJ Hutton Jun 2016
My body's on the chair.
The balloon's tied to the lamp.
It wavers and spins. There's a smell,
I'll admit, and the flies have
already left and been.
The small world outside
continues, no need of my
permission. The bluebirds,
the children, the dozers—
I listen. No dreams,
no memories, no love,
no hate, no suffering,
no pleasure, no propagate.
Jun 2016 · 847
Girl at the Gate
JJ Hutton Jun 2016
I.

I lay beside the canals in Esmeralda, city of water.
For hours a shadow and an oar and a boat approach,
and in the distance unseen girls hum a melody,
a melody not wholly unlike the sound of the lapping waves.
The sun rises and sets in a matter of moments.
My skin crinkles, molts, regenerates as fresh
as a babe's. I think of father, of mother, the words
not the people. My hands move now on their own.
The left points to the Saint Cloud Bridge and I say,
Saint Cloud. I'm in my body but outside it. A little god.
A deliberate historian. I record everything.
I think I always did. My right hand waves
to an acrobat on a clothesline. Behind
the acrobat a small stucco home crumbles
and rebuilds itself. My right palm
covers my mouth and I kiss it.
The veins running down my arms
appear to be filled with different colored inks,
reds, blues, greens. A shadow and an oar and
a boat approach, closer, closer.
A single swallow flies above the water, dipping down,
wetting the tips of its wings, climbing upwards over the
balconies, the rooftops, the sun setting, the sun rising,
blessing its flight. My right hand traces my uneven
and ever shifting face. What did I look like as a boy?
Did I have many friends?

II.

The shadow offers his hand, eases me aboard
his small boat. We push off back the way he came.
He says a few words to me, the
only words exchanged on our long journey:
I used to live in the city, he says. It nearly
drove me mad. I moved to the country.
I cultivated a garden. I installed a wood stove.
This was healthy.

III.

A small delight, to watch the shadow
command the oar, the grace in it.
I think of a woman's dress. I think
of the word rustle. I feel the word rustle.
My left hand points to the shoreline.
Spanish moss hangs from a bald cypress.
I say the word, Fire, and the Spanish moss becomes
engulfed. I say, Stop, and everything
stops, even the sun. Its position makes
me think the phrase six o'clock. While
Esmeralda, the city entire, is locked
in my rule, I step out onto the water.
I find I can walk across it. I know the
city's name, but I'm not sure I ever lived
here. The blades of grass feel foreign
on the soles of my feet.

IV.

Four has always been my favorite number,
I think. A lightning bug emits a flash of green.
It is the only creature unstuck and I follow it.
It leads me through a snow covered valley,
through a yellowed wheat field, through
a suspended dust storm. I brush away the particles
and they drop to the cracked earth.
I'm in a desert now. A woman sits with her legs
crossed. I sit with her. I feel the urge to tell her
a joke. It's apparent. She feels the same urge.
We both try to get the words out, but we keep
laughing, our minds rushing to the punchline.
Before we finish our jokes, we die. We decompose.
We turn to skeletons, our bony mouths full of ash.
We're born again, our joy and humor now with a depth centuries old.
We laugh, death much easier than we'd expected.
We try to tell the jokes again. The cycle beings and ends and begins.
The lightning bug insists that we move on.

I'm led to a gate. Guarding the gate is a girl
with a red ribbon in her yellow hair.
I ask if I can call her maiden.

I can almost see through the girl.
Rolling hills and a crystal stream
serve as her backdrop just beyond
the gate. She summons me with
a gentle wave of her hand.
I lean down. She kisses me.

You're my first kiss, she says.

I hope I'm not your last.

She takes my hand and insists we walk backwards.
The ground is uneven, my feet unsure.

There's an old saying I'm sure you know, she says.
The definition of madness is doing the same thing
and expecting a different result. This applies to more
than recurring bad decisions. It applies to death.

What are you saying? I've been expecting a different death?

You've been expecting a different consequence of death,
but you keep dying the same way, the girl says. Watch me.
Be curious. But say no more. Don't diffuse death of its
wild alchemy.

We walk backwards through the gate.
I want a secret, something
the girl doesn't know about me, one
dark moment to add dimension. But
the thought lurks that she knows
more about me than me. Time speeds
up. Day turns to night. Snow feathers
down. Backwards we walk into empty
homes, into dry riverbeds, into the unknown.
We begin to fall. From what, I'm not sure.
To where, I'm not sure.
The girl grips my hand tightly.

When will I know that I've died?

Shhh, she says. No words. Only wonder.
Jun 2016 · 860
Lake Garda
JJ Hutton Jun 2016
I find myself in a coverless Italian summer.
Grass browned. Skin freckled.
I find myself impatient,
no longer willing to entertain
the destinies of the salt and sea.
I edit video of you in a cobbled basement.
There's a knowing look that lasts four seconds.
I split it into six fragments and set it in reverse,
an unknowing, a deletion.
The crook of your neck
and shoulder blade. The red of your hair.
Some nights I hang from the rails. Five minutes.
Ten. And pull myself up.
Tented and mad by August,
stabbing ice with a little
black cocktail straw.
How can I change my
How can I love my
How can I erase my
body?
The rains wet me.
The wind wrings me.
This city we used to walk
under streetlights.
Now I bike through,
pedaling, furious and blind,
toward a place I don't know until
I arrive, and I kiss a young woman
who looks a lot like me. I ask her
to say my name over and over.
I want to fully occupy the moment,
the space, this time. Her lips
remain closed and her
hands linger on my shoulders
and no music plays and
there are voices, loud and
happy, speaking a language
that's completely new.
May 2016 · 584
Conversation V
JJ Hutton May 2016
There was a time—and this wasn't all that long ago—where I wanted to be seen, loved, admonished. I wanted to be some novelist casanova, women, movie deals, et cetera. And one day it changed. I wish there was some monumental event tied to it, some clear catalyst, but to be honest this opposite idea, this idea of erasure, came to me in a supermarket. In the checkout line the cashier didn't greet me, didn't ask the usual did-you-find-everything type questions. The transaction was wholly procedural, nothing human to it. The total showed up on a screen. I swiped a card.

And it reminded me of that part in DeLillo's—I know, it's always DeLillo—in his book Zero K where he talks about the origin of "alone," and what the word really connotes. The word is a rather simple portmanteau of the Middle English phrase "all one." And when you think of the word like this, all one, it gives you a different idea. It does for me anyway. All one suggests freedom from any tie or association. It's who you are minus geography, minus desire, minus friends, minus family, minus lovers. Many people would say there is no self if you were to eliminate essentially the entire context of your life, but I disagree.

I say all of this to say, I'm hitting the red button. I'm eliminating all my friendships to regain a semblance of an inner life. I think they've become responsible for a projected version of myself, an expected version rife with inconsistencies that I wish to no longer adhere to. I know what you're thinking. I'm going to be some half-assed buddhist of the plains, but this small world I've played a small part in shaping has become suffocating, and the only way for me to exist in this space is as a vapor.
May 2016 · 867
mel oh dee
JJ Hutton May 2016
It was strange and didn't register as a serious request. She wanted to take care of me. Nothing ******. Just a meal here and there, maybe a little tidying up of the house.

She wanted me to talk. And that part, the talking, always felt transactional, a repayment of her cleaning and cooking. She didn't ask questions. Just nudged me on with emphatic nods in the living room, sitting six feet away from me in a stray office chair. She listened as if I were recounting a past life of her own.

I told her once I loved her little feet, especially in those heels. The next week she wore sneakers. She was older but not old, fifty or so. Two children a few years younger than myself.

She made a point of not staying past ten or drinking more than a single glass of wine.

I was always a little embarrassed by the state of the house. The ***** clothes strewn across the room indistinguishable from the clean. Earmarked novels, long novels, the kind you could bludgeon a person to death with, gathered dust on the coffee table, the desk, the kitchen counter. She touched them, fascinated by what secrets or sage advice might lay within, but she never read a page.

One night I realized I'd never said her name out loud. And she said, "That's impossible. Of course you have." But neither of us could think of a particular moment. And just when I was about to, she said, "Why break the streak?"

We grew more comfortable with one another. She wore less makeup and let her age show. She'd show up in sweatpants. Some nights we'd order Chinese and play that familiar game where every fortune is punctuated with "in bed." A stranger will change your life forever tomorrow in bed. Lies lead to great calamities in bed. So on.

We called them dates, our lunches in the break room, taken each day around 2 p.m. She would bring me leftovers from the night before, always making a point of saying something like, "My husband just couldn't finish it."

She brought baked ziti on a Wednesday last March. I told her it was the best I'd ever eaten as I forked it out of the tupperware container, the edges still hot from the microwave. She said she hadn't been intimate in two years.

"Is that possible?"

"It is."

*** didn't transpire immediately. We worked up to it.

I liked the way she directed me. I'd never experienced anything quite like it. She'd tell me to touch myself while she held me in her arms, she'd snag a handful of my hair, she'd dig her nails into my thigh, but her words were always beautiful, whispered, tender, spoken in the sacred and profane language of lovers.

I'd come and she'd make a comment about the quantity, comparing it to her husband's.

In the serene afterglow before we toweled ourselves off, I'd rest my head against her breast, and I'd say, "I could stay here forever."

"Every man I've ever slept with has said that."

"How many men have you slept with?"

"Has anyone ever liked the answer to that question?"

"I don't mind. We could compare data."

"Including you?"

"Including me."

"Two."

She crawled out of the bed and turned on some music, Neil Young, "A Man Needs a Maid."

"I always felt guilty for liking this song," I said.

"Me too," she said.

We drank coffee on the back porch before the sun came up. "There was a man," she said, "before I married. He was an artist, a painter. We were in college and I loved the deliberate way he spoke. He'd think, sometimes for a full minute, before he said anything. There was a softness in his voice that required you to pay closer attention to him. Your voice is not all that different."

The Department of Transportation began tearing down the houses in my neighborhood to make room for an additional two lanes of traffic. By October mine was the only house left on the block. The apocalypse in miniature. We'd drive by piles of brick and fencing and she'd begin to cry.

It was a particularly brutal winter, and she buried her car in mud and snow when she tried to back out of the yard on the day of her son's graduation. I offered to drive her.

"No, no, no no no."

We sat in the snow, our backs against her car. She leaned in and said, "Your cologne is new."

"Yes."

"You've cut your hair."

"Yes."

"Your shirt, it's actually ironed."

Silence for a beat.

"Who is she?"
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