Daniel Gohman

                                                  Daniel Gohman

Konstantin kulakov





Time’s rhythms never forsook me, but space, space
slashed and left me nameless in the gray valleys

of Bronx apartments. It is fall. The yellow and blood-red
leaves smudged, smeared, igniting my dark shoe, 

clinging, like Russian birch autumns, like history, to the
undercurrent of me. And with the tug of wind, I am

in sixth grade, Wisconsin, listening to the rustle of fresh  
pencils and counting the clock. Or walking from work, is it



the smell of burning leaves in Russia, the brown-tinged radiance
calling me home, where under kitchen light bulbs

my father ignites my first alcohol burner: 
the flame blue, then yellow. No. It is the fall

my grandpa and first love passed in the
                                                Maryland leaf-hush.

That is fall. Fall may mean



the gentle machinery of kompot, mixing spurts of
strawberry and apricot, always there and lifted

from the dust of a broken cellar—or the fire of chili, 
cocoa and cider in fields sprawling from Wisconsin

to South Carolina. Fall carries itself in fragments, the smell
of smoke, the cold, the loss. It is never the same,

but something similar changing.



My friend in Ghana wrote about October
across seas. There, the seasons revolve,

not around cold temperature, but the rain season,
regenerating the plant life. And autumn is

not the deathly reds and yellows,

but green. Green. 



I cross the green Farmacia in the Bronx.
This fall I am in New York. It is late October, 2017.

And after strange attacks of humidity, it is now
cool, growing cold and the leaves, the yellowing leaves,

when they do lean from the endless valleys  
of gray cement – they are like an anointing with oil.




Southern California


I was chastened by the land—the spiny fists 

of trees stretching through rock and hollows that


wound the shin. And I was returned with the gifts

of expansive skies—unruly tufts of green shrub


buzzing under dark clouds. 



Adam walks a trimmed garden, affixing names 

to the birds of the air, the names hanging 


restlessly; he tweaks his painless world. Eve is

his companion, but she is looking away, staring at a rift


in the land. She tries to speak, but 

finds no words for suffering.






I have left the lectures of the deserts and 

the sweet rot of the gardens for the luminescence


of a subway car. And through beat-up glass, it is not 

skies or oranges in bloom, but lips the precise violet 


of dusk, a Spring dress trailing lilac through 

windy blocks. “Doors closing.” And the rush-hour dash 

for excellence feels like a clothes iron wrestling

the wrinkles of a stream. 



And each day, I see the weight of guilt carried into 

bars where candles and fresh flowers mask 


the public housing, the jails of thorn. And each night, 

entering the Bronx,I can’t forget the black body 

cops brought to the ground. And though my skin is white 

as colonizer and though you call me lover, to touch


the corners of your inherited pain, I only try 

to listen. Too long, I stand clumsy and stuck. 



One day, waiting for the train, I wondered, “Where can I 

find her, the goddess of nettle, who dressed my wounds


with clay and kissed me into reality, crooned pain is 

inseparable from getting better?” And the dust said: “She is in 


the deserts, pushed far into sands dried of cacti, strategizing 

with the wind.” Through halls of pain, she walks with her son


—too thorny, too forgotten to flower.



After late shifts, the many faces, strange and looking

away, sway like reeds in the moon-flooded pond 


of a subway car—their eyelids, petals, unsticking

to the powdery green light. Tonight, I feel our thorns                         


slowly become leaves. Outside, under vast 

blankets of clay, a goddess is shifting in her sleep. 



                    —Owner of the Sun, Yoruba Religion

                                                         For Amiri Baraka


Purple night. Harlem/Columbia sounds of rat peeing in steel pipes.

Black music is Black power: sexual, liberated through lively breast notes—

something was just repressed: the embodied, intellectual fuck the Man

of pure being/singing. Still, mechanical Wall Street implodes into Olorun.



Konstantin Kulakov is an award-winning Russian-American poet born in Zaoksky, Soviet Russia in 1989. He is the recipient of the Greg Grummer Poetry Award, judged by Brian Teare. Kulakov's debut collection of poems, Excavating the Sky, was published by Dialogue Foundation Books December 4, 2015 and lauded by Kirkus, Cornel West, and David Rosenberg. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Phoebe, Tule Review, The Christian Century, Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy, Tidal Basin Review, and WildSpice. Select poems have been translated into Russian, including a forthcoming translation into German. He lives in New York.