< >

kamden hilliard



Hair Salon: Catalogue in Seven

             after Terrance Hayes’ “Wigphrastic”


because my aesthetic is a bit too black-ish-kid-who-wears-
nail-polish{TM}    mother thinks i’m sad again      so we run

             hair salon: 1 hour
             bank: 30 minutes
             mall: whatever we wont get there

ma’s hair dresser is auntie Genie [yes real name    reader]
and aside from being (A) hilarious and (B) one hell of a hairtamer
she invented cp time / black folk stride / and most general
symptoms of lateness    which are all forms of mourning

which is why
i have what brother calls
white hair     and he has what i call slave hair
and its still funny  
        hilarious little problem


auntie only hollers     no other sound settings
and she's already talking shit/ richard pryor ripping
my anemic ass down cause she dont think they feed
you up dere in new yoark

brother and i drop dozens
like flagrant soldiers on someone’s d-day
                                       / anyday
                        / errday                all day nigga!   
 my sister almost drops on snapchat

and its my job to breathe normally
to remember that fuckery diversifies as the ticking dont stop
or get enough

when i think of the aging process
its another flake of blood    the unwelcome wrinkle
of trauma


with her hair did mom looks like storm
brown and two stepped closer to needing
what auntie calls one a dem old folk doctors
which is admittedly kinda funny     if also fucked

also funny they call it a blowout        

auntie works with three older gays
[white gays but why am i telling you?]
i watch them read me     mommy and auntie unaware
talking shit        over their quiet queer snipes

when my parents die [really die not poem die]
all that will be left are some nails / teeth /
siblings /

and of course that hair       which can say so much
about folk:     


is your line fine? do you shell for the good product?
do you need to?       how often is your trim?    look
when the last time you smoked your cutman out?

my white friends enjoy haircuts more than i do which says more
about my white friends then it does me [maybe?]

i hate barber shops which explains my central failures
of black manliness    

the last positive thing to happen while huffing barbasol
was hearing Watch The Throne the day it dropped

                      keep yo damn head straight         clippers
                      dont bite


a spade is a shovel        arthur ashe is black? who knew?!
[dont answer that]     is the dude from rush hour chris tucker
or chris rock?        name the members of the Jena Seven      
who are the nappiest headed hoes in all of basketball?
was sheherazade a niggra? stories are after all the hardtack
and spoiled butter of survival: the fuck you think morrison
is up to anyway?       general hint: john henryism         no
im asking what time the barbeque starts starts       love jones
or love and basketball? 
    where was rodney’s kingdom? [
corny queries i know]

a joke:
how many black men does it take to change a headlight
if its shadowing the noose?


i too weep terrance        more often than i'd like
to admit

but a counter offer:

let's talk hair
let's talk grease and part and
trade and product and trans-
atlantic and trans and homo-
sapien and homosexual lets
talk hairy corners and the days
passing -isms

let's talk family and color all with hair
these lumpy relations and iterations
of violence      these seats of luxury


god only made wigs because cheetos
are very unhealthy
and you'd be surprised what gets talked
about with a blowout
what a weave can do when it hurts
to be too true       truly

i refuse the phrase copout for obvious reasons
and prefer the church of wig-dom
socrates was only killed for making novel gods
and damn damn if these arent something special

give me a roots wig and a booker t washington
weave      the land of homogenized milk and honey
has a dress code       duh

same as heaven same as these heathenous boys
perhaps a coloured despair wig for your coloured despair,
an economic despair wig, a sexual despair wig,
a wig for expressive despair, political despair, a movable halo.

New and improved, your wig can be set upon the older wig
just as the older wig was set,
when it was newer, upon the wig beneath it.
Where’s your wig? Wear your wig. Your wig is terrific.


june 18 2014 / surprise elegy 10 months later

                    for alex lam


what if the step was a bit faster
the year a bit warmer
sister saying well
                           instead of fuck you
we are hairline to the sun and full
for ocean  
for Hart Crane
for the heart swimming home
sick again with want

theres a lotta of shit alternatives
and none of them include this particular
spring      warm enough to skip taxes or death
and try happiness one more last time
get swole like sylvia       glowing

              I am flushed and warm
              I think I may be enormous
              I am so stupidly happy

and almost drowned in asphalt
Shom says       are you fucking     crazy?
and i say     i made it across the street yo
but oh this busty risk    my feet too fast
and the car still yet faster
and wondering how jackson pollack
i can leave my limbs

this may not be the best of all possible
worlds but at least it isnt raining alex this time
alex from the overpass alex
from the remorial service alex on the plasticine pages
of facebook torrents and torrents of alex
of syllable no longer connected to text

and what if he just went too slow too fast?
a semester too quiet?     warning sign
under illuminated?

i almost died because Shom loves me
and let me hold the speaker and i love
Dr. west who dropped the nastiest beatgrind
and--     WOOSH     the pitch just short
of my impending splat

this must be the best of all possible worlds
generous with its double edged monkey bars

alex lam was twenty years old and a member of
LMU’s business school soccer prayer extra-
ordinare he died june 18 2014 in honolulu hi
i imagine it was a lovely day i imagine the infinite
number of mistakes:     maybe he was stupid high
or maybe he thought there were stairs maybe
he took the abyss staring too seriously maybe
maybe he was sleepwalking or maybe it was the universe
which spinoza believes is both god and the universe
composed of one substance which alex might have
found funny cause he did ask griff about buddhists
but maybe nothing can assist sadness
maybe he trusted spinoza maybe he stepped a bit faster
in a year a bit warmer maybe he is still in love with all of us
and walking back and forth on the next level      
praying for us to learn
the alchemy of pacing through this world.



Sunday May 10 2015: Catalogue in Seven


and even in yonkers ny
                        i am chicago again     somehow     
this sticky plexiglas sports bar / enough black people to march
somewhere / and a wholelotta noise:       cavs v bulls
4th quarter metalmaking hot
leBroke james tossing elbows like coins to unwilling beggars  

                         and im chicago rooting loud
derrick rosé poppin bottles for the city of the big shoulders
theres something pretty sweet about making the days goliath
sweat cause now its seriously close

but when isnt it? when is anything that far off or out
even cousinly homocuriocity
              last summer      wicker park, IL    a whiteness outside
              the chiraqian orbit       with its concept restauranteurs         
              and cousin D who is         visiting the house ma rented
               wondering about

                            the gay thing     man! i dont want
                            you to burn in hell or nothin--
                            thats for god to decide      i just
                            wanna know whats so good
                            about dick and ill leave it be


oh sorry yes another glass please               yes mild sauce

and there you are miracle iphone          shiny and money
there is the tinder noise      again with the possibility
of another love for------            AYYYYYY rings the bad bar

leBroke has the inbound    pops into the air
wheat stacking the cleanest three        AYYYYYYY
ring the cav fans       thick with glory
snapchat the cake and enjoy it too

and sometimes it just hurts     ya know?    no overtime
the cubs dont grow up    the kids arent alright      
the chicago cousins are alive         which is more positive
than im willing to admit

maybe your boyfriend's drug dealer is this totally trap
chicago bitch       youre gonna love her! 

and theres nothing to say      reference        because your chicago is distant
lump on the event horizon: irrelevant plot point
you cultivate nothing       no tool making no freight to handle
truly ignorant fighter    go dream your sweet Garrets dreams
and never stay more than two weeks                you you you

but still somehow also always me too       narrative is just shorthand
for allegory      

nothing is ever about itself


somehow i score a free round        from the

*money emoji*

bartender who has been working tinder      stacking wheat
tumbling with vibration      
but only after my ape yelling and noise of course of course

i shake down another margarita
because i cant quite stumble back to the emails yet
not when I have seen the farm boys under the gas lamps
and i am a farm boy lured
whats the harm? to let him chief my keef love        perhaps
dancehall daddy break me

but his fucking teeth

untuned tired ivories
and now its ma which is irritating mom--mothers day
all in my head          dental health is important
people look at your teeth all the time    its gross

and she's right        im looking at his teeth all the time
and it is gross!
im not down at all
and she knows best       she knows me / knows her chitown

and my eyes glazed go to these imagined memories:
ma ripping lakeshore drive in four with snow tires
ma sidestepping boystown      ma now saying:

         its not that hes a boy but do you see
         those teeth? damn

he can see me already        oh no
goes dick vitale of the dickgame       goes:      the speaker ignores another pass
im throwing the series      nothing back
lovely he is though      thickbacked and looking hard in me
but no      i am Dunleavy damned to be sad about this shit         

i fucked up again [me speaker me remember]
with my       prepped inclinations my private demands / henchmen of solitude


and now
back by staggering demand          the original negro sideshow    in which the speaker                        
writes a short poem       

required materials

a brickhouse   stacker of block and maker        pretty          loves kanye or at least                         tolerates my faults generally        none of these wheezy demands                 but still pretty                      tho        
always puts out              fires for me or me if im firey            in love with my parents                                 and family            able to talk shit with the chitown trees


i leave to insure promptness           split out of the stool
and jam back to campus i am            tipsy am             2-2 with the cavs
am mommas boy        cause momma loves the bears
the cubs      green mills and magnetic curses        of lake michigan

but damnnnnnn yonkers smells good today
city stumbling into spring still taking off its scarf
exhaust in the pan with the pollen

i run into white friend 43 aka paige      who shares the same name as sister
[weird]         she says           hello! sunshine light nice shit
i mean she doesnt really but im mean       which is the closest i get to hard
next is G.     G. is lovely most of the time that isnt classified as now because
G. says you smell like smoke     and fat people        which i already know
refers to yonkers      and the city in me isnt chill          

it wants to take her maine-stay ass
to the playground          make her eat ants      laugh
get kinda hard and keep going

oh kindercollege!         how eventfully awful
always with the insignificant yet harrowing injustices:
library collections white men and girls on pages and
in stacks and chairs all so impressed with your
art ick u late shun
       all so impressed by your great
gatsby tricks:        perceived distance from impact


i almost tipsy dial female chicago cousin      dez
[tré chill / law student / not pregnant]
but dont        but resist         

if my mother could love
she'd like us on an island

and do i blame her?

i do      but isnt everyone trouble?
valid or not?

arent my feelings large? so important and self
inviting to the party? asking for a goose island [again]
charming but a bit too drunk?

i dont want to do shit i do not want to go outside       my dramatic trauma
is unique       is vast and operatic
this air thick with carbohydrate
my body sticking to itself

a punchline: but really have you ever had a midwestern fountain drink?              
thick milky sweet
syrupy flatland nice

i almost call a cab
think better of it
think      who might see me?
i have a reputation to hold under


id be a union boss        
ive thought about it
family and dock salt
id belong to anything that would have me really

         a city made no longer
         a city
casket factory chicago         chancey rap sheet

let me stay awhile
baby      its cold outside cause your lake effects dont fuck around

assist me
smelt me warm
              greedy pig iron




Kamden Hilliard is running through Hawaii and New York with his woes, which include fellowships from The Davidson Institute and Callaloo. Kamden also prefers Kam, is a junior editor at Jellyfish Magazine, and recipient of the 2015 Stanley and Evelyn Lipkin Poetry Prize. His first collection, distress tolerance, is forthcoming from Magic Helicopter Press in late 2015. Kam’s work has appeared in (or will drift into) Juked, Bodega, The Atlas Review, and other lovely places. He has no chill and wonders if you’ve got some to spare.