Kent Leatham
The Song of Songs, Each of Which Belongs to the King
(Chapter 5, Verse 7)

“If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher” — Abraham Lincoln, 1838

“There are no charters” —Audre Lorde, 1984


the watchmen
Night watchmen
The guards

found me
found me then
found me as I
I encountered them then

Then I was caught by
The sentries as they
were patrolling
made their rounds
went about the city

in the city
for the city
patrolling our city
watching the city and guarding the walls

They found me
in our city
the guards

the guardians
of the walls

They beat me
they beat me
they beat me
they beat me

They beat me and bruised
they bruised me
they stripped

They struck
and wounded me
they stripped off my veil

they beat and broke me
they smote and wounded
they struck me
they struck
They took off my clothes

They took away
they stripped away
they lifted my
they lifted my cloak


laid bare

They took my
forcibly removed my
placed their hands on my
peeled away

The guardsmen

of the walls
They took

beat me and left me
and bared

at the walls
at the foot of
in the shadow of

those guards
of our city
The watchers

found me
beat me
left me

They left
The city’s keepers

The men who keep

the city safe at night
and walls

(dedicated to all LGBTQIA+ BIPOC victims of
racist and trans/queer-phobic police brutality)

June 2020
Kent Leatham
Not Much Cabbage & One Boy Left

Springcreek, Miami County, Ohio. September the 11th, 1862.

Dear Brother in Camp,

“What sacrifices have you made for your conscience?

why oh why dont you write I have been waiting very patiently but alas I want

to hear from you in about three shakes of a dead sheeps tail if you are still

living and have paper and the use of your right arm and hand we heard

What books have you read on the subject of pacifism?

you was very low with the consumption which I hope is not true

Margery is here and we get along she is baking bread pies and cakes

she brings me whiskey for my rheumatism we have thrashed

Why do you refuse to fight or object to killing?

our wheat and got 109 bushels and we have the best corn we ever had

though not much cabbage we are not dutch enough I guess there is

plenty of apples this year I am drying what falls of the maiden blush

Are you against all war?

when Tom thrashed our wheat the driver was a soldier who lost his

left arm at the battle of pittsburg landing he is staying at Mrs Eastys there

has been several deaths some that died in the hospital and some sent home

What alternate method would you use to resist evil?

Alexander Sohell is dead so now there is only the old woman and one boy left

Frank Denoman was in the battle at pittsburg and had a hole shot in his hat

John Beamer was wounded in the thigh though not dangerous Mrs Beamer

Why is it wrong to prevent evil from happening to others?

is in the lunatic asylum and crazy old Duke was nearly blind but the doctor

turned his eye inside out and cut the blubbers off and now he is better

Will says you knowed the man that was killed in Bill Andersons company

Why is it wrong to defend your country?

his name was Miller Berry he was a blacksmith in piqua the morning that

the rebels got in to the camp before they was seen and the union men

run like the dickens Jimmy Burns run a mile and a half before he over took

Why accept the benefits of a country you won’t protect?

his company and he had nothing but his pants and shirt on he says

there was about ten or a dozen rebels close to him and he could hear the balls

whizzing close to him he had to run for dear life oh and the folks down at

Do you have any civic duties at all?

smalley town are nearly scared to death on the account of the small pox

a young man come back from the war that they think has it our old sow has

two pigs and Tom is going to sell them to the butchers our old cat has three

What happens to people like you in Russia or China?

little kittens and we got a dog and call him tip old Mrs Mosier was going to

kill him Frank is a very hearty child you ought to see him when he is hungry

he will set on the floor and take his bottle in his hands and throw his head back

These are the sort of questions you may expect from your draft board.”

and then he dont care if milk was ten dollars a gallon he gets all he wants

well I will have to quit till after dinner for Margery will soon want the table

and I believe I have wrote just about all the news there is I remain

[Handbook for Conscientious Objectors,

Your sister till death

Mary E Sustin

8th Edition, 3rd Printing, 1966]

p.s. write soon if not sooner unless you are dead

Kent Leatham
Dear Dad,

Here’s the thing:

In the 2013 anthology Troubling the Line,

trans poet Zoe Tuck writes that “it’s a commonplace

that all language is quotation. Is it any less true

that gender is?”

But because you’re not here

to give whatever answer you might have

on this thesis of echoey performativity,

I turn instead back to the 1992 anthology Men of Our Time,

the closest I can get to your generation, your voice,

where language interrogates gender as quoted

here by every line in the 408-page book

from the 169 [cis] male poets

that begins with “who”:

who will do whatever he wants

who wore one suit

whose father it belonged to

who have forgotten one another—

whose eyes close in a filmy dream.

Who answered to the name Father

whose time doing chores must have ended

who have been killed in a few seconds’ surprise.

Who crosses easily into her point of view

Who only knew

Who can hurry past the five-and-dime,

Who held like a rivet

Who filled her lap with hot gold,

Whose fingers found the one hundred triggers

whose dreams each night

Who can’t quite master the real

(“Whose mission in life is to play with me”).

whose face

whom she loves, and hasn’t seen for a while,

who has killed his first birds

whose scarred beauty Reubens would surely have missed,

who never looked back across the thick swale

who this boy was or what happened to him, kept asking

Who are you? Where can you live?

Who never said more than an averted hi. Good-goddamn!

whom you still loved. He had jilted

whose breezy tongue gets completely out of hand

who put the message in the bottle

who she is. I just hope she wasn’t conscious.

who came toward me.

Who’s seen bliss; now I can drive back

who can’t call it off—

Who are the men speeding away? You are.

who tore off Monique’s flimsy panties

who breathes at the center

who died before I was born

who, in the thirties, would vanish to New York, catch a show, buy a suit,

who for over forty years came down each morning, “How’s the old goat?”

who had one there.

who would have thought

who strolls the shoreline, or just

Who’s this? Is this church business?

Who will see me till I die deliriously

who wrote about the moon on a southern ocean,

Who might have been a doctor or a priest

Who jeered. We were lucky. We didn’t go.

who kidded the waitress

who cried softly all night

who can’t endure their desires.

Who climbs on a chair

Who demands to see the breasts of his wife

who did not have to tell me

who didn’t get the facts straight

who drank their way from one small cottage to the next,

who piss against the wall of good fortune.

whose very clownishness might let him get away

whose reputations burgeon as their eyes stray from the next

who seem to have lost forever

who have gone so long

yet leaves me, and possibly you, whoever

you are, to conclude whatever it means

that there are only an additional seven other lines

in the book about being manlike

that start with “why”:

why is he going there

why is he traveling alone

why is it your eyes look so wild

Why you gaze outward, brother?

Why did it sound

why not

why not?