Patrick Kanouse

Patrick Kanouse's poems have appeared in many journals and websites, including Hoosier Logic, Smartish Pace, The Connecticut Review, The Evansville Review, Astropoetica, Connecticut River Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, and The HyperTexts, among others. He has read his poetry in Evansville, Indiana, and Indianapolis at several venues. You can visit his website at

He is a managing editor for Pearson Education, a technology publisher in Indianapolis. Patrick lives with his wife, Gina, and their dogs, Riley and Kennedy, in Westfield, a suburb north of Indianapolis.

Richard Feynman Orders Nigiri-Sushi
I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.
A conspiracy exists between me
And my itamae-san. I prefer that raw
Blue fish of the world, tuna, and the gray
And brown finality of the mackerel
Topped with thin rings of green onion.
Oh yes, and a cup of green tea.
I watch him as he prepares my order.
I always wonder, should I watch or read?
Watch as he slices the fish with a knife
Sharpened on one side only. Watch his fingers
Dip into the small bowl of water, then to the rice,
Which he sculpts with the first two fingers
Of each hand. He scrapes his index finger over
The wasabi, jams it into the underside
Of the fish, presses that over the rice.
No created or consumed energy. Just the efficient,
Orderly coincidence of hands, eyes, rice, and fish.
Do I bow or do I wave goodbye?
Like Xerxes attending his disaster
From a cliff, we ply the space between
Our eyes for definition and syntax.
As he, from his silver-footed throne,
Counted one-by-one the sinking
Of his grand fleet, knew his conquest
Would be but impressions
Of a throne on the shores
Of Greece.
So we ascend a stranger stair
Into an allusion of force and matter.
Vinegared rice, quarks, chopsticks,
And gluons. The anti-particles? Let's not begin,
For this is not a place for Pierre's admonishment,
"Wine should breathe!"
And what of the strings that cleave
Light, force, matter, gravity?
How much soy sauce? How much ginger?
Like an abecedarian, I try to tease
The implications of this dish before me:
Blue, long, with green edges.
Tuna and mackerel
Lined across the plate fleeing
Wasabi into ginger's tang.
Do I bow or do I wave goodbye?
How do we diagram such simplicity?
Enact the elementary with the ordinary?
Use a little soy sauce.
Ginger to cleanse the palate.
Oh yes, and another cup of tea.

Vertumnus and Pomona

Space, by definition, is any line or surface that connects points at a certain time.
-from Scientific American

Faint etchings, fragments of languages we never
Learned.  Distantly, I watch you cutting and pruning.

A storm approaches, and I turn into the dusk,
To the pub.  Meanwhile, cosmologists debate

The universe's demise, how old it is, and
Its shape.  In what mind or manner do we measure

The curves of ideas, of outlines of fingers
On the skin, of releasing the tongue from the throat?

GIs wrote their location in cipher-letters
In letters home.  Perhaps, in the street-corner

Sermons, we, too, can find our language.  Neither time
Nor space is the compass of our conversation--

From distances my words cannot reach your ears.
You tend your orchard; I watch you pruning your vines--

The fruit lustry, fragrant, there.  In the day's margins,
Scribbled notes become cryptic.  The trinkets, tokens,

And photographs we carry are the addresses
Of the people we were, flourishes in journals.

You can fold space and time in your hands, if you like,
And dream a subtler dream than mine, but I speak

Hieroglyphs, and you understand only pi.
Between wind and eyes, the etchings lose definition.

We cannot hear the sermon, cannot break the code.
Language becomes theory, chaos, and conjecture.

Published in Spoon River Poetry Review
Note:  "lustry" is the poet's coinage, being a combination of "lusty" and "lustrous."

The After Storm Drive

When the gutters drip single quick drops,
New broken stems of trees lie on the grass,
And the evening light injects the latent
Colors with hints of gold, we drive.
The vicious-tinged clouds chastise other towns
To the southeast.  We lower the windows
And open the sun roof.  We play Davis-
His pre-fusion single trumpet perfect
For the cool air, breezed with clutters of rose
Lavender, and wet grass.  His taut, torqued notes
And the sprinkles more air than rain, like spots
Of oblivion.  The humidity creeps
Back in, but we drive until dusk, seeking
The substance of jazz alloyed with passing
Rain, the open window, and that sense
Of fatigued vigor pungent after sex,
To grasp that all by gripping the wheel,
Elbow on the door, driving without plan,
Driving to prolong this epilogue,
These sensations against the mastery
Of forgetfulness and the still of twilight.

Grandpa’s Gone to Oregon

Dedicated to
Walter Jameson, Dec. 25, 1913–Mar. 31, 1995
Glenn Kanouse, Mar. 20, 1913–Dec. 7, 1995

Waking, my eyes, and in the night
My soul, seek you. Overcome
By my body, in my lonely bed,
I see you beside me, lying,
In the lying visions of sleep.
You would conquer sleep
If you really came to me.


Congealing heat, in pools across the road’s
Horizon, marks my last destination—
The rhythm of each piston and yellow
Hyphen blazes my trail westward, where land’s
Horizon ends and sea’s begins, across
The continent’s broken anatomy:
Its veins, spine, and calluses.  Oregon,
Whose green cliffs lick the sea, to you I go
In search of the end search, of breast and shroud.

One one thousand, two one thousand, three one...


Coal-grime gathers above Peoria,
Slowly sinking, yellow-pitting grey walls,
Cursing the lungs.  Two hundred prayers all for
One job; four hundred hands searching pockets
For stray hopes:  Who is the blessed one?  Off
The coast of Gaul, Caligula struck his
Sword against the sea and wiped Neptune’s brine
Back, claiming godhead.
                                        In the silence of
Grime and factory’s pulsing grinds, rumors
Spread, thesis becomes law—A job! a job.
Hitchhiking to Indianapolis
The next day, I gamble; hundreds pray for
One job; no stray coins—I’m the lucky one.

...thousand, four one thousand, breathe, one one thou...


The stars tenaciously puncture the night’s
Catacombs, whose rhythmic breathing unfolds
The limitless to the drowsy eyelids.
God breathed soul into the earth, Icarus
Succumbed to ecstasy, and the rondure
Of the city’s midnight light witnessed the fall—
I feel the sky’s grain and grind and pulse; its
Subtleties lost among chasms of star
And star, star and earth.
                                        Vulcanized rubber
Scars the pavement, the city’s glow subsides
To memory and enjoins my voyage
West, where the moon echoes on the ocean.

...sand, two one thousand, three one thousand, four...


Four feet above the Illinois River
There was freedom:
                                Raw hands unclasp the rope.
For a moment, I’m outside gravity’s
Noose, where ersatz wind and sounds of somewhere
Peoria clutch my hair, I found flight—

Later, among alluvial rocks, I
Found an arrowhead dulled by steel bullets
More accurate—its eroded delta
A symbol unknown to me, its plight
A surety.
                 Three inches from the shore
Of the river, freedom joined water’s tomb. thousand, breathe, one one thousand, two one...


Strange patterns emerge from the inconstant
Onslaught of billboards, stuttering do's and
Fees—other patterns, a conglomerate
Of headlights, trees, and distant homes (mute with
But bracketed silhouettes)
                                    —And the stars
Pass obscurely—
                           And patterns collide, my
Voyage mocked, my search justified—stars pass
Another city’s glow withers to thought.
Patterns rescind the epic.
                                        I’m alone.

 Moon-studded flocculent clouds whisper dreams. 

...thousand, three one thousand, four one thousand...


Love, I write you from where I cannot say—
Cannons fire, flash, thunder—My foxhole
Is mud because it just rained—lightning and
Thunder—and stars pass. When will I be home?
Don’t ask, because I don’t know. I’ll never
Forget our wedding day—and that is not
A cliché ... Don’t ask when I will be home
Because there is a war to win and we’re
A pawn to victory—Please don’t ask when
I’ll be home, because I don’t know, can’t say,
And the stars pass and it hurts not to know.

...breathe, one one thousand, two one thousand, three...


Under the morning moon, wary fragments
Of mangled lives are glaciers, retreating
North in slow, haunting measures.
                                                        Brilliant days,
Somewhere between blue, dirt and sea I seek
Oh Oregon! Mighty glacier, marker
Of cradle and tomb—
                                    Reflections of pure
Sunlight strike the windshield, splinter into
The car—I’m consumed by the morning moon
And disconnected, generative sky. thousand, four one thousand, breathe, one one...


I’ve seen too much of hospitals lately—
Wires, alarms, and straps to keep your arms
From flailing about.  Your rolling shoulders. 

How like a crib is a hospital bed.

Your touch, always gave me headaches.
I grasp your hand, kiss your lips—does it hurt? 

...three one thousand, four one thousand, breathe.


Ashes to ashes, sea to sea, and stars
Pass and billboards tell me where I’m going
For a fee—Oregon! whom I only
Saw before in pictures grimy from time
Hands and thoughts—the Columbia River
Empties to the sea, to the Pacific.
Oh say can you see ashes become sea.
Speak now or forever ... lightning, thunder,
You can ask now—I will hold my peace, Love.