Kayleb Rae Candrilli is the recipient of a Whiting Award and of a fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts. They are the author of Water I Won't Touch (Copper Canyon, 2021), All the Gay Saints (Saturnalia 2020), and What Runs Over (YesYes Books, 2017).
What Runs Over won the 2016 Pamet River Prize and was a 2017 Lambda Literary finalist for Transgender Poetry and a finalist for the 2018 American Book Fest's best book award in LGBTQ nonfiction. All the Gay Saints was the winner of the 2018 Saturnalia Book Prize, selected by Natalie Diaz. They are published or forthcoming in POETRY, The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Academy of American Poets, TriQuarterly, Puerto del Sol, Bettering American Poetry, The Boston Review, and others.
*"POEM IN WHICH I CHALLENGE..." appears in Kayleb's 2021 collection Water I Won't Touch.
POEM IN WHICH I CHALLENGE MY FATHER
TO AN ARM-WRESTLING COMPETITION
AND FINALLY WIN
More than a decade has passed since I saw my father,
in the parking lot of a Wilkes-Barre strip mall. More than
a decade since he took my sibling to the Hawaiian Islands
and dosed them with oxy, meth, and heroin. In that order.
None of this should have surprised me. But, of course, it did.
When my sibling finally came home, they brought home blown
veins, a back full of scars, and a pillowcase filled with bruises.
My father once forced a crack pipe into my hands, right after
I was discharged from the hospital, and right after
my 18th birthday. I’m sure there’s something beautiful
to say, somewhere, tucked between the facts
of our lives and my old Pokémon collection.
My sibling is sober and vibrant and alive.
My sibling is way more fun than I’ve ever been.
Nothing should surprise me,
but it does, and that’s enough.
I have so few fond memories of my father,
but what I have, I hold.
He read me the entire Kamandi Comic series.
and I studied that Last Boy on Earth.
I learned how to survive an apocalypse
and how to be a boy.
It’s 2020 now, and both are proving useful.
When I was 7 years old,
my father and I play fought with inflatable
circus swords in the sunroom.
When it came down, I expected a knighting,
but instead, the plastic seam
sliced my cornea. I suppose most children
taste this same bittersweet
syrup when they think about their fathers:
sugar dressing up a lemon,
an eye patch over a rivulet, a pretend pirate
only until the wound heals.
When the stock market crashes, I am happy
to have nothing but Hot Fries and Orzo invested,
in the pantry. Sometimes it is easy to have so little,
or at least uncomplicated. My mother loved Hip-Hop
and my father beat her for it. If she and I drove around
alone, she’d turn up the radio and explain: It's like
the more money we come across the more problems we see.
My mother had our property logged of all its timber,
so I could move away and learn to write poetry.
My father spent all that maple money on marriage
counseling, but my mother wasn’t in attendance.
Sometimes I want to go back, just for a meal
of Steak-umms and frozen orange juice. But who
has the time to rewind. My parents are finally
divorced. I am writing poems. Those downed
trees I used to climb are sawdust.
A POEM ABOUT ONLY BASEBALL
Bubba, we were out there
on the diamond together,
and you were always shining
the brightest. I remember
you catching a pop fly just
to roll your body right
into a front flip. For you
it was about being the best,
and looking good while
you did it. God, we were
just children and the world
was ours and we couldn’t
be hurt even when we were
hurt or hurting. Every small
town has a story about a
talented and beautiful boy
who is smoldering. I was
the only girl on the little
league team, and though
I am no longer a girl,
you were always so fiercely
soft with me. When I lost
my teeth at second base,
you searched the rocky
infield dirt and told me
not to worry about the money
it would cost to put me
back together. I think
about your daughters often,
and I want to pass down some
of the gentleness you gave me.
I keep it all in my wallet, still,
tucked between receipts and
the coordinates of our town--
our town that takes all the good
ones, and never looks back.
Terri Linn David-
For the Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits
Darius Simpson- 2 Poems
Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach-
When my son says...
Kaleigh O'Keefe- Autobiography of Joan of Arc
Timi Sanni- In This World of Mysteries...
Anna Attie- We Lose Her Over Facetime
Ruth Baumann- 2 Poems
Rob Colgate- Remember These Tulips
Tasneem Maher- Pilgrimage
Aerik Francis- Bebop
Emily Blair- The best ham...
Adrienne Novy- 2 Poems
Daniel Garcia- 2 Poems
Brendan Joyce- moving day
Sanna Wani- 2 Poems
Raphael Jenkins- 2 Poems
Ava Gripp- Your Grandfather Had Secrets
stevie redwood- abolish the dead
benedict nguyen- 2 Poems
Gabrielle Grace Hogan-
Girls Night at the Saturnine Aquarium
Devin Kelly- 2 Poems
Danielle P. Williams-
Alan Chazaro- In a Vernacular of Speculation
Deema K. Shehabi-
A Summer's Tale with Fire Birds
Kayleb Rae Candrilli-
Julianne Neely- 2 Poems
Jake Bailey- 2 Poems
Fargo Tbakhi- 2 Poems
Justin Phillip Reed-
Naomi Shihab Nye-
Keith Leonard- Jukebox
CAConrad- 3 Poems
Roya Marsh- for (insert name)
Stephanie Kaylor- LONG DISTANCE
Tongo Eisen Martin-
A Sketch about Genocide
Despy Boutris- BLOODTEETH
JinJin Xu- Days of Hourless Mothers
Ashley M. Jones- Flour, Milk & Salt
Sam Herschel Wein- How To Cook Your Family
Marianne Chan- 2 poems
Jason Crawford- PReP
Geramee Hensley- Redundancy Limit
Dustin Pearson- My Brother Outside the House in Hell
DT McCrea- On occasion of my own death
Noor Hindi- Unkept
Linda Dove- Mid-Life with Teeth
Stephen Furlong- I Don't Know About You, but Mostly I Just Want to be Held
Dorothy Chan- Because You Fall Too Fast Too Hard
Kevin Latimer- MIRAGE
Taylor Byas- Rooftop Monologue
Matt Mitchell- FINE LINE TRIPTYCH
Todd Dillard- Will
Heidi Seaborn- Under The Bed
Heather Myers- A Rainbow, Just For A Minute
Donna Vorreyer- In The Encyclopedia of Human Gestures
Conor Bracken- THE WORST THING YOU CAN DO TO A MAN
Ben Purkert- 2 Poems
Emma Bolden- What Women's Work Is
Chelsea Dingman- Lockdown Drill
Raych Jackson- Pantoum for Derrion Albert from the Plank
Elliot Ping- in the eighth grade
ii. dance moves
D.A. Powell- Sneak