Poems and a Collage by Kevin Sampsell

Multimedia, Prose


"Shooting the Rapids," a collage by Kevin Sampsell
“Shooting the Rapids,” a collage by Kevin Sampsell



My love is never shaped like I expect
I cannot find it on the Internet
I cannot find you on the Internet
It is a queer tree
Waiting to be cut down
by someone I thought was a stranger
Are you boy-shaped?
We are never boy-shaped
You said you loved my belly.
I’ll never forget that.


The String

I discovered a string coming out of my belly button and pushed it back in. You found it and started to pull. The string became longer. You wrapped it around your wrist as you pulled. I said “Put it back” but you just stared at me and kept pulling. I lit a match and it burned down like a wick. I felt a warm tickle on my belly. I imagined this tickle to be the halo of a baby inside me. “My baby has no string” I said but ten minutes later the string was coming out again. You watched me suspiciously as I put on a sweater and walked out the door. I looked back and saw you squinting at me through a window. I walked further and further away.


How Old I Am

I learned from a social networking site
that I’m actually a year older than I thought.
I’d been telling people the wrong number
all year
The last time I got my haircut
I told the hairdresser that my hair was
“at a crossroads.”
She took me to the back and sat me down.
She took her time with me, with the scissors,
her buzzing hand
I moved my eyes to see her arms moving around me
They were lean and hairy
I thought it was my hair at first
but it wasn’t. It was her arm’s hair.
I saw a photo next to the mirror I stared into
It was her and a man
Maybe her husband
I thought he was lucky.
After she whipped the bib off me
removed the thin tissue circling my neck
I got up from the big chair
and slid on my glasses
Saw myself come into focus.
She saved my life, I thought.
She saved my hair’s life, I thought.
What am I pretending to be?


Watch Me

I always liked it when adults watched me
play sports when I was young
I’d shoot baskets or play football or frisbee
and if I sensed someone’s eyes on me
I’d put a little more flair into it
Look as athletic as possible
tense up my muscles
Now I play basketball in the backyard
hitting deep jumpshots
dribbling behind my back
as if a defender’s hands
were swiping at the ball
Our cat watches me from the grass
sometime from the top of the car
He looks interested
But what I really want
is for you to come outside
and watch me too
See how good I still am
I still am
Take off your sunglasses
so I can see your eyes
Hold the cat in your arms
be my audience

Kevin Sampsell is the author of the novel, This Is Between Us. He makes collages, poems, books, and other things in Portland, Oregon. He has been getting his haircut with the same hairdresser for about three years now.