Poem by Kevin Killian


"The Bean" © Peter Bugaiski; Creative Commons license


When I broke the glass thermometer, out ran the mercury,

in one liquid blob, matter calling to matter, like not one of its molecules
       wanted to be parted from another even for a moment.

Mercury was supposed to be so mercurial—like Ariana Reines, the poet.

We were celebrating her book Mercury, in Chicago for the AWP,

she and Dodie and Peter and Lewis Warsh, reading together in a bar, and
       she cancelled, due to snow in New York, but the crowd learned that
       she had deputized Thurston Moore to read for her,

so they were assuaged, but then it turned out Thurston
       had missed the same plane. Joel Craig, the emcee, came out and had
       to announce that they wouldn’t be getting Ariana, nor Thurston,

but me, and this one woman, sitting at a round table by herself next to the
       mic, by herself except fourteen bottles of beer surrounded her, when
       she heard the news she smashed a bottle on the table and screamed,
      “Fuck that” and bolted into the snow, so I got up and read, thinking
       worst auspices ever....

My mind ran clear, and I declared to myself I would be Ariana for half an

just assume her identity. To my aid came Thespis on silvery wings. I was
       more Ariana than she herself had ever been, I’m sure, and as I spoke
       her words, I understood the difficult section of Mercury called
       “Thursday” as has nobody

else before or since. I was writing it on stage, live, giving it to my fans,
       word by word, and I realized that he, the missing Thurston, was the
       god they had coined the word “Thursday” after,

for he would bless us on a Thursday if we leaned on him,

it could be any day of the week,

it could be all the molecules in his body entering and filling mine,

I would be a day. I’d run around after myself. I would cohere.

When I finished, the silence swelled around me, profound, then a burst of
       sustained applause, and even the woman out in the snow was
       sobbing, for she hadn’t heard me.


Art Information

  • "The Bean" © Peter Bugaiski; Creative Commons license.

Kevin KillianKevin Killian is a San Francisco-based writer and artist. His books include Impossible Princess, Action Kylie, three volumes of Selected Amazon Reviews, and Tweaky Village. Recent projects include a novel, Spreadeagle, and Tagged, nude portraits of poets, artists, writers, and musicians. Writers Who Love Too Much: New Narrative Writing 1977-1997, a capacious anthology edited by Dodie Bellamy and Kevin Killian, will be out from Nightboat Books this spring.



Kevin, this poem is the best

Kevin, this poem is the best thing I've read all month. When I was in eighth grade in 1964, before they discovered mercury was toxic and shouldn't be messed with, my science teacher allowed us students to spill drops of mercury out on a piece of paper and watch them roll around until they joined together into one blob. Liquid metal. Cohesive as all get-out. Fascinating stuff. We used to shine quarters with it, even. Your poem made me think of these things, and also about when my artsy friends and I would flee Daly City and ride the Muni into San Francisco to listen to hippie poets read their words on foggy street corners. Your poem is a keeper. I've printed it out so that I can be inspired by it over and over again. Thank you.

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