Edgar Kunz: Two Poems

An exclusive excerpt from the poet's new book.
Ewan Gibbs, "San Francisco," 2015-16, pencil on paper, 11 3/4 x 8 1/4 in. Courtesy of the artist and Baldwin Gallery.

Edgar Kunz's Fixer, from which these poems are drawn, is out from Ecco this summer.


I could hear every bit of laughter passed
between the dishwashers of the café

I shared a wall with, and one morning,
touching that wall, felt it give wetly

under my hand. I called my landlord
knowing the apartment above me

was vacant—a space, I gambled, larger
than the one I had, where every piece

of furniture touched. He surprised me
by saying yes, I could stay there

during repairs. I made my calculations.
You were giving up your perfectly

good spot in Denver. I had a month
to convince him to come down on the rent.

I moved my bed up but left the rest,
which workers covered with a tarp.

When the work was done, I went on
squatting in those bright upstairs rooms—

the windows are unreal, I told you—
for weeks, pestering the landlord

every few days, going to his house,
walking with him in his garden, trying

to explain. He relented at last, grumpily,
and I moved the rest of my stuff

before he could change his mind. You came
with everything you owned, and suddenly

we lived together. That first morning
you noticed a red access ladder

I had missed outside the kitchen window.
We climbed, one going first,

the other handing our coffees up
and clambering after, and that high

we could see the belltower at Berkeley,
eucalyptuses in the hills and traffic

careening down Alcatraz, hint of salt
on the wind, and though we would leave

this place, too, and soon, when the rent,
despite our pleading, ratcheted

beyond us, if you craned your neck a little,
perched delicately in the distance—

No fucking way, you said—was the Golden Gate,
stitching the city to the headlands looming

across the bay, and we were moved
to silence by it, gripped by a pure clear idea

beyond experience, and stood a long time,
touching shoulders, touching knees.


In the new place they slept 
with the windows open,

square-paneled panes 
that faced a slope of ivy

and pine straw and swung 
cleanly on their hinges,

screenless. But it felt as if 
they lived underground,

a burrow across which 
headlights descending

the steep driveway
on the wall’s other side

swept in the crisp dark, 
maneuvering the gap

between buildings.
They were getting away

with something, they felt, 
though he was newly

divorced and they were paying 
heavily for the privilege

of this tiny ground-floor 
studio by the lake.

They got to know 
their neighbors some,

were invited over once 
for pinot and gossip

by a woman who’d held on 
to her apartment, she said,

since ’98, outlasting a series 
of aggrieved landlords

who refused repairs, and so 
heated her few rooms

by turning her oven on high
and leaving the door open.

Mostly, though, they kept
to themselves. They were tired,

and wary of entanglement. 
They worked and touched

quietly and made reasonable 
requests. Each morning

they took their coffee out
to the garden, which did not

belong to them. At night,
the wheels, which could crush

so easily, passed inches 
from their sleeping heads.
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