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Kurt Olsson


The character I call I wants to thank

the character who doesn’t exist

who phoned in a dream to tell me

what I must do with my life

which is why I find myself packed

and in my car on my way to a city

the character I call I has never seen before,

except online and on TV, and thus

will remain as made up until I arrive

as the character who doesn’t exist

I want to thank who has just awakened

and even though he can’t fathom why

he’d phone a person he’s never met

he feels so good, whatever he said,

when he enters the kitchenette he gives

his imaginary wife a hearty kiss,

the aroma of make-believe espresso

and sizzle of faux bacon lingering

in his mind like a half-forgotten song

so when he doesn’t make the morning’s first signal

he looks over at the driver in the next lane

and before the light changes

gives him a merry nod and then accelerates off

to the city where dreams go

leaving the character I call I to wonder

what the heck that was all about.

Namesake: An Elegy

He was a punter, not the British kind, though he’d have liked that,

given his thing all things English. He spent semesters there,

trying to outgrow his love, his first, for Chaucer. He taught me how

to hold the ball at an angle, nose down and away from one’s kicking leg.

It worked, kind of, even if I punted with my left, the wrong foot.

He didn’t just punt, he ran them back, too. Holds his alma mater’s record

for longest runback of all time. 9/26/59. Against Lakeland.

Every few years, at moments, when I’m on standby or thinking back,

I look it up and make sure. After he had his kids, it wasn’t the same,

even if they were girls. They had his hair, ginger, the same faraway eyes.

My folks say I wasn’t named after him, they just liked the name.

Later, he never stopped eating the wrong stuff or took good care. Suffered

the heart attack killed him during his doctor-mandated morning walk.

He ran one hundred yards that day, and no one touched him.


Kurt Olsson has published two poetry collections. His second, Burning Down Disneyland (Gunpowder Press), won the Barry Spacks Prize. Olsson’s first collection, What Kills What Kills Us (Silverfish Review Press), won the Gerald Cable Book and was subsequently awarded the Towson University Prize for Literature, given to the best book published the previous year by a Maryland writer. A third collection, The Unnumbered Anniversaries, is due out later this year or early next. Olsson’s poems have appeared in many journals, including Poetry, The New Republic, Southern Review, and The Threepenny Review.

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