Lengthy Poem Contest

How To Find A Black Hole
In Your Kitchen

(A Poem Cycle)

by Dana Kroos

How To Find A Black Hole In Your Kitchen

My brother’s fourth grade science report:

                        A black hole happens when a large star dies and becomes as small as a pin, but
                        still has the big-star stuff. Its gravity is so great it will suck you in.

                        Even light can’t escape.

Beneath, a drawing:
                         dark marker bleeding into lined paper, fibers saturated and separating like cloth.

Two a.m.
our mother

in the kitchen
in darkness

arms raised

to catch
the sky.


This is what the end looks like:
sepia tones, fish-like, Vaseline film
with the sheen of metal,




A quiet distance
at two in the morning.

Standing in the center of the room.
                Shut your eyes.
                Spread your arm
Fingers comb the air.

Feel the cold rising to your skin,
heat condensing at your center,
the air sucked from your lungs.

These sensations may be slight.
A black hole in the kitchen is necessarily small,
but no less destructive.

From afar, my brother calls. 
He won’t talk to her, he says,
               Best not to bother now.

She speaks of him, fourth grade,
the way she had to search his room
night after night
so that in his sleep
a black hole would not inhale him
into darkness and nothing.

She has a knowing smile.

When you are too weak to stand,
you can also find a black hole like this:

Sit where you can rest your head,
close your eyes, slow your breathing.
Your heart will beat in your ears.
Your muscles will tense,
gravity is pulling from
the center of your body.

Then you will feel it, drawing you in.

How To Fix Broken Toys

If the paint scraped away
          leaving an eye without definition,
          or a hinge loosened a limb,
          or “the head popped off,”
          these things are readily fixed:
Sharpie, paperclip, twist of hand.

If it is something more:
          translucent plastic cracked,
          hair torn from pin-sized follicles; 
          eyes gouged in or out—
this requires special care.

When Dad remarried he sent our childhood
in cardboard boxes softened with mold and damp.
“Here you go.” “Thought you might want these.”

He needed to make room for his new wife,
her children in their twenties, but still
younger than us. They did not want our toys.

My brother and I did not want them either—childless,
nomadic, city-dwellers short on space. We left the boxes
seeping smells of our once-upon-a-time home.

A friend comes to stay.
In tow: a three year-old left by her mother.
They arrive with the clothes on their backs,
a favorite stuffed frog, a book about a dinosaur, a princess crown.
“They let anyone have children.”
I have toys.

Our father never knew
which toys were mine, which my brother’s.
In the mail my brother receives:
I find:
Marvel figurines.

The three year-old cradles
Wolverine and Spiderman,
“This is the mommy,
this is the daddy.”

By afternoon she has snapped
leg from body.

After years of battle-play,
Spidey is bested by a toddler.
In jest my brother will smash my painted pots—
primary colors in shards.

We have long abandoned
these things,
run from our house
before our father exiled us.

Before he remarried.
Before our mother died.

Hansel and Gretel,
raised in the woods,
in the gingerbread house,
by things misguided more than wicked.

Such a strange delight
to be malnourished on candy,
how jealous was everyone we told, but also:
the entrapment, slavery, seduction. And worse,

the things we did: lies, tricks,
pretending to be what we were not,

escape through that push
into that firey oven.
We emerged from the woods
scorched and starving.

“Fix it,” the three year-old says to me,
Spiderman in one hand, leg in the other.

Some broken toys cannot be repaired.
New stories must be told.

A hero is born:  one-legged, lighter,
impeccable balance, capable of flight.

“Look at him,” I say.
He stands like a bird

How To Walk On Water

If it is frozen. Or shallow. Or thick with reeds.

by dispersal of weight over space less than the pressure of surface tension:
                                  Tension (T)    =     ________Force (F)_______
                                                                Length over which the force acts (L)

Devastating to see the world clearly,
when the shore becomes a marsh, eroded,
beaten by storm and sea;
the piers of plank and metal;
the house on the hill—overtaken by mold—
never enough for what we needed.

Once we needed next to nothing.
“You eat like birds,” they told us.
Proof that we were avian
waiting to grow wings.

We played
this was our island alone,
the dock a concept on the verge of completion,
the house learning to grow like a tree.
You believed it wholly.
I believed it also.

            Gerri·dae  Pronunciation: \ˈjerəˌdē\ Phylum:   arthropoda Class: Insecta
            Order: Hemiptera      Suborder: Heteroptera
            1. a family of insects with the ability to run atop the water’s surface.
            Sometimes called water bugs, water striders, pond skaters, water skippers,
            Jesus bugs.


Always in summer
                                       the water bugs,
legs outstretched
                                       to corners of a cross,
bodies hovering above
                                        still reflections.

This is why
                                        the stones skip,
the glass overfills
                                        without spilling.


                                         not one thing, but
many things


                                         holding hands,
                                          Red Rover, Red Rover;


the brace
                                          before impact,
the breath
                                          in unison.


You said, “magic.”
                                          You said, “hold your breath.”

Some places exist in time rather than space.
Certain memories are constructed in collaboration.
In the city the rain hits the only window.
My apartment floods.
The carpet sodden.
I think of you.


            You would have loved the outside
                                                            flowing in.
            You would have imagined
                                                            we were at sea.
            You would have claimed
                                                            we could live an entire life treading water.


Half-way above.
Half-way below.


                                                            the touch
              is so delicate
              to that thin film of surface;

              the stone
              never settling
                                                            long enough
              to sink.

I could never hold when it mattered,
your palm
clenched in my palm.
Red Rover, Red Rover. I feared

the collision;
the pain of the chain broken
so much greater than that of

I promise, this is not a coffin, but a boat;
beneath the ground there is a sea
with islands the shape of clouds
racing across the water.

Winners now announced

Back to the 2022 Lengthy Poem Contest
More from Defenestrationism.net