Zachary Kluckman

Issue 1: Prose Poetry

Our Christmas Card

The table in the kitchen had a stain. Blood in all its dark, crusted truth. Reminder of home. All we could afford, so it stayed. Remember the stamp your body left there, brother? How it made our home a post card? Wish you were here.

Restless, this ink the heart spills after your jump from a moving car. There was a girl. A girl whose brothers didn’t want no long-haired dude from our street to be with her. They already knew us by our fists. Remember when they tried to stand us down with greater numbers and found we didn’t understand the words back or down?

They saw you together and howled like wind through the ditch banks. As you lie there, leaking your salts over the cheap wood of our table, you tried to tell it. The chase, and the drag as your body clung to the car. How survival kicked in, and you held on to the frame. One hundred yards before her shock and the brakes rolled you loose.

Butter knives make poor scalpels, brother, but we fished the rock and ruin from your skin. Blue flame under the spoon as we dug. Hot salt water flush as we watered your wounds. Cleansed your skin. Your breath a steady hiss of pain as iodine-painted flesh flinched with our medicine.

They say laughter is a medicine best practiced with friends. So I pretended anger for the shirt I literally gave off my back that Christmas. The seams and shoulders shredded to rags, I grinned. How could you do this to my shirt–as I pulled threads loose from your skin. Read your wounds.

The toll for survival is too often paid with our bodies, so we laughed. Because death is a debt collector and we never paid taxes. Because we knew every breath you took after would be a hot penny spent on split lips. That we would always carry the knowledge that one day, maybe soon, poverty would extend to our pulse. That every debt must eventually be paid.

I tell this story every Christmas. When asked in the future by my temporary wife if it made us uncomfortable to eat dinner around that stain every night, I shrug. Laugh at the privilege of those who have never been dragged over the pavement by life. Answer with all the honesty I know. Every holiday we celebrate has some history of blood.

Zachary Kluckman, the National Poetry Awards 2014 Slam Artist of the Year, is a Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Gold Medal Poetry Teacher and a founding organizer of the 100 Thousand Poets for Change program. Kluckman, who tours the nation as a spoken word artist, was recently one of three American poets invited to the Kistrech International Poetry Festival in Kenya He has served as Spoken Word Editor for the Pedestal magazine and has authored two poetry collections.

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