Kevin Killian

“Oxygen,” one of a series of poems about the elements I’ve been writing for the past four years, came to me thinking of that moment in GRAVITY when George Clooney seems to be alive when Sandra Bullock, in shock from present events and also from  a family trauma, needs him to be.  We all need oxygen from the moment that conception begins—did you know that?  I guess I did in a way, but I’m not even 100 % sure that it’s true.  Poetry comes out of the gaps between what I’m convinced of, and the airless pages of fact checking—I’m living in a dreamworld…  








Sandra Bullock floating and her colleague (George Clooney) taps her glass

A panic that can still confound her—she had a little daughter died of too much cough
        syrup in her

oxygen….  It is the element we throb into life in the union

of sperm and egg

That day I started to breathe through the womb—a gasp blinking through the trailways
       like a C-section.

Tap, tap, hey are you ready for the gaps in the world?  Are you ready to make water, for
       light, for the twilight?  If you slump when it hits your chest, a tower deep will
       unsheathe you—

enshadow you—Was it only a bird—those wings a-flap?

Oxygen stands for O, for order, for Oprah, she named a whole crumby network after
       the element—

Stands for orgasm, that little face you wear—that little pout with the tongue tip wet like

                                    like the back of a stencil

I could never write a poem, let alone a book, like Perec did with his A Void, but avowing
       the “o,” for I couldn’t put you in it.  Or my drone in it, or Mexico, or oxygen.  I’d
       be nowhere and couldn’t even say where I was.

For me it would find its life in the


riddles, not jokes; fishes, not loaves;

inside, not out

Sentences, words; pastures, not woods

Blue, not yellow; midnight, not noon.



Kevin Killian, one of the original “New Narrative” writers, has written three novels, a book of memoirs, four books of stories, and three books of poetry.  For the San Francisco Poets Theater Killian has written forty-five plays, and the anthology he compiled with David Brazil—The Kenning Anthology of Poets Theater 1945-1985—is the standard book on the subject.  Recent projects include Tagged, Killian’s nude photographs of poets, artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers and intellectuals; and forthcoming, with Dodie Bellamy, The Nightboat Anthology of New Narrative Writing 1977-1997.