sho Poems | The Poetry of Lee Kisling

Poems and Piano: The Leon Compositions


On August 3, I was given the opportunity to perform two original piano pieces at The Phipps Center in Hudson. My best pal, Dan Bushman, recorded the performance. We are a long way from Carnegie Hall, obviously. Here’s a link to the video of the event. Thanks!

The Leon Compositions

Updates in the New Year

Good news from Wisconsin!

Lee had 21 poems accepted for publication in 2014! They will appear in these journals, and will be added to the webpage after they appear. Thanks to:

Stoneboat Literary Journal
Bryant Literary Review
Off the Coast
Spank the Carp
Star 82 Review
Fiction Southeast
Front Range Review
KYSO Flash
Kindred Magazine
Two Hawks Quarterly

The Stoneboat Literary Review also nominated Lee’s poem We’re Sorry for  a Pushcart Prize! You can read We’re Sorry in the Published Poems section of Lee’s website!

Finally, Lee will have two poetry readings coming up with poet John Graber, one in Hudson and one in Stockholm, WI. Dates to be confirmed soon!

How the Music Came to My Father

Soon to be published in Sixfold


How the Music Came to My Father

Sort of a miracle, you might say because
I never saw or heard him practice. Just one day
there he was playing an accordion in his baggy pants
and white shirt looking like he was holding two bags
of potatoes, squeezing the air in and out of them.
The miracle of it—so sudden and unexpected—I now
picture God reaching down his wavering finger to touch
some other man with musical sensibilities, some father
two doors down, but accidentally touching Glenn.
And there he was, blessed, in our crackerbox house,
playing some nickering old-world polka and a passed-over
father down the street pulled his belt from his pants
and went looking for his boys.

The cosmic error was corrected eventually by
whoever it is that fixes God’s mistakes. We went back
to our yelling and the whippings and the accidental
Myron Floren moment passed. The world I knew
made sense again, and the holy finger must have
only barely brushed against him—he never said this
is going to hurt me more than it hurts you. And now
he’s in a sort of band of accidental squeeze box angels
on 42nd Street in heaven and there is a champagne bubble
machine, and sometimes they go marching in their old
army uniforms down that gold paved road,
shaking with palsy, tickling the ivories,
singing Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.

Kindly Give Up

Soon to be published in Sixfold


Kindly Give Up
Kindly give up these seats for the elderly and the daft,
arthritic abuelos singing pharmacy songs.

Kindly give them up.

Where they have been you are going.
Where they are going you are also going.

Give them directions, not to there-
they will find there easy enough, soon enough,
to where else they are headed before there
with always bags of stuff on the bus.
Kindly give them your seats
your help, your hand, your memory.

Eyes magnified by thickening lenses, leopard spotted.
Less admired certainties, less effective remedies.
Less likely recoveries, less remembered memories.
Like strollered babies eying their peers,
they watch each other disappear.
Landmarks of long lives, having passed by here before,
creased old maps, now everything’s changed,
what with the by-pass and one-way streets to the shiny
spotless hospital on the hill where

Once upon a time

cows stood.

What is most depressing about cemeteries is the heavy yellow
machinery—once just a couple of bums with shovels
lowering themselves, making it last.

Please give up thinking of their movement as mass transit.
Picked-up pilgrims along the road, slowly boarded,
carried to clinics, casinos and churchyards,
deposited on corners. Speak to them
in Polish, Spanish, or Serbo-Croat.
Nod in understanding,
yes, yes.
Babies once, transported in arms, never alone,
tiny fingers, pink toes wee wee allthewayhome,
soothed, sheltered, spanked, adored. Kindly make
a place for them, give up your seats, soon
the return, to the corner of
Here & Gone, en memoriam, the gray
guests of honor.


Soon to be published in Sixfold 



Here is the imaginary library
where you can borrow a father—a book
you didn’t finish. Old books about fathers
and grandfathers with brittle pages,
pictures and maps of Kansas and Iowa
may show signs of wear. They are anecdotal—
the price of a horse, the hot weather in September.

Here, the reading room.
Empty chairs and morning sun
slanting through the windows,
the slow quiet turning of pages. Shhhh.
No howl here—no keening, no Shall We Gather,
but someone has written these books because
someone needs to read them.

I will be your father if you’ll be my daughter.
a loaner to get you around the town;
oh what a family we could be—
understudies, bound to say
sorry, I loved you,
and goodbye.

Write 50 Times

Write 50 Times

Soon to be published in Sixfold

(for Dave Moses)

1. I will not chew gum in class. I will
2. not chew gum in class. I will
3. not gum in class chew. I will
4. in class chew not gum. I will
5. not sing The Marseillaise in class.

6. I will not, just incidentally, ever work for the telephone company.

7. And I will NEVER put my hand in my shirt like Napoleon Bonaparte.
7. Well yes, I suppose it all started with the gum chewing.
8. And some things just happen, of course.
9. I will remain gum-free, attentive, and responsible,
9a. but possibly not in class.

10. I will not chew gum at my Uncle Inor’s funeral.
11. Tomorrow afternoon at 2 pm. Thanks for asking.

12. I will not chew more than one stick of gum in class.
13. I will not, as a rule, respond well to petty discipline in class.
14. I mean, who the hell really cares about gum chewing?
15. With all due respect.
16. Or bloody prime numbers. Or King Whatsit. Or wretched poems.
19. Like going to school ever did you any good.
22. Bongo the Clown probably makes more money than you
29. and he drives a red Camaro.

34. Christopher Columbus chewed gum and he discovered Virginia or someplace.

37. Actually, chewing gum is a sedative.
38. It helps me concentrate.
39. It’s a health issue really – I could get a prescription.
41. You don’t want to see me when I haven’t had a chew for a few hours.

43. Thousands of people work in the chewing gum industry.
44. Good decent Americans with mortgages and car payments.
45. Next I suppose we won’t be permitted to sleep in class.
46. What’s this class about, anyway?
48. We the People demand to have the right to chew gum!
49. Give me liberty or give me some gum!
50. E chewibus pluribus gumbus!



Soon to be published in Oberon Poetry Magazine



Forty years ago in a Congregational church,
no sense of proportion, we promised to love

each other forever. At that time in my life,
I didn’t even own a watch.

What I knew about forever, street corners and minutes
for the cross-town bus.

But listen: each year, after I die, I’ll speak to you
the floor vent in the day room.

And if you miss my call, that’s okay
as promised, plenty of time,

and when you pass away, I’ll be there waiting on
Highway 18
by the YOU’RE LEAVING IOWA sign.

When the sea rises, when the cities fall just a blink past
on our frogmarch to eternity—

when the sun explodes, turning earth into a cinder, I
love you like a teenager on forever’s old sofa

ever and ever, always together, you a white notebook,
me a red pen
just itching to write your name.


Soon to be published in Oberon Poetry Magazine


the architecture doesn’t matter

this is not my real life                                                                        

             from Autobiography, by Kazim Ali





Medulla oblongata:                                                                                          turned in his keys

Cerebellum:                                                                                               staring out the window

Amygdala:                                                                                                  tossing cards into a hat

Hippocampus:                                                                                         won’t answer the phone

Hypothalamus:                                                                    broke down by the side of the road

Thalamus:                                                                                                      drumming his fingers

Frontal lobe:                                                                                                 counting railroad cars

Parietal lobe:                                                                                                     can’t find his shoes

Temporal lobe:                                                                                                    moved to Alberta

Broca’s area:                                                                                                   lost in the high grass

Occipital lobe:                                                                     laughing, then crying, then laughing

Corpus collosum:                                                                               heaving stones into the sea


(match one item from the left to one item on the right)