Back to Issue Twenty.

my essay on abdomination



Have mercy on those months the Hudson boiled
blue in its seaward scribble
while the skyline slumped in heat;

those days our evenings were
so many sit-ups after work, the temperature still
digging its red-hot heels in, we crunched
like canny animals in danger—
but we did it all summer
on your building’s roof, where the washboard,
the six- or sex-pack was a vision
of a world well-toned
and so damningly beyond my grasp

it tamed me. Ashamed of the gasps, the grunts
let slip through my bit lips,
I envied your easy sitting up,
your rarified belly.


El Libro del Ejercicio Corporal
by Cristóbal Méndez prescribes
for the improvement of eyesight staring
willfully in the face of winter wind;

proves how the planets get sick
and soil their night sky. “That the body is
inside the soul,” and “leisure
hurts.” I submit to you

the chapter Sobre Juicio, On Judgment,
how man comes to lose it.

It’s a muscle, after all—like memory.
Like what it was we once called
a little fucking bravery:

when lugged before the Inquisition
for the forging of zodiacal seals rumored to heal
all sorts of 16th-century ailments,

it was said of Méndez,
el cuerpo froze and el alma flexed.


Ice accretes on my porch rail
in a lazy way. Still

the GW Bridge draws a dazzling span
across my shut lids locked
against the wind.
                          A clear

flabby night here in Lafayette
under the heaven’s lingerie—

moonlit lace,
nothing not betrayed.

Your soul looks skinny, said
no one ever. If I still love you, wow,
it’s that business of

the body’s remembering,
                                      my gut the mind
of what? of an elephant,
for whom an old face is never strange
but regret’s the only mirror,

and Mayor Bloomberg—have you heard this?—
bought from the circus a run-down
elephant exercise ground
in the Hamptons.

He’s rich.
So were we,
so to speak. I wish
we’d made a show of it. 


Originally from Cleveland, OH and a graduate of Oberlin College and Purdue University’s MFA program, Matt Kilbane is currently a PhD candidate at Cornell University. His work has appeared in Jacket2, DIAGRAM, Best of the Net 2012, and elsewhere.

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