Saturday, January 06, 2007


"Story of My Haunted Head"
by John Korn

Yes. I work in a second hand store.
There are many regular customers
and I've gotten to know them.
One is a man about forty-something
short and chubby and sometimes
has a beard, dark brown with flecks of gray.
His hair is long and parted on the side.
He often runs his fingers in it.
He looks very kind and intelligent
but once you start talking to him
you see he's very much a child.
Perhaps something happened to him.
Maybe once he had the mind of an adult
but some accident trapped him
into being forever ten years old.
He always has an older man with him.
A guardian who is obviously his friend
and who takes him around to places.

The child man always buys very random
things. Mostly knick knacks. Old bowling trophies
with other people's names on them.
Tacky tourist ashtrays from Mexico City.
A small chair for dolls.
Ugly homemade lopsided vases.
He'll often call me over.
"John," he'll say.
I'll find him pointing at something on a shelf.
Like a fishbowl filled with colored gravel.
And he'll say, "Man, look at that. That's nice.
How much is that?"
I normally sell him things really cheap.
Because I like him.
I'll say, "Aw, that? That's fifty cents."
"Aw, man," he'll say. "Can't go wrong with that."
I'll ask him what he's gonna do with it.
He'll say something like, "Well, you take that home
and put it on a shelf...
and there you go!"
He'll stand with his thumbs tucked into his belt.
Once he bought this strange ball.
It looked like it was carved from a white stone
and it had brass straps wrapped around it
and screwed into place. Like a grid.
If you were a kid
and you got a hold of this ball
it would possibly be a magic stone.
I asked him what he thought it was.
He said he didn't know.
I asked him what he was going to do with it.
He said, "Well with something like this
what you do is you take it home
and first you have a couple of beers
and then you place it on a table
and then you got your friend
sitting across from you
and you roll it around
and you talk about what it could be, you know,
and by the end of the night
who knows what it could be.
Could be anything you know."
He often talks about drinking beer.

I imagine that he lives
in a Charlie Chaplin type shack house
on a hill. Inside maybe he has a bed and a stove
but mostly tables and shelves.
And he places these things on them.
He picks them up and examines them.
Nods his head. I don't think it's about
the object so much but more
about where he's going to place it.
Like there are these empty spaces
on the mantles and he constantly needs
to go and search for something
to fill that space. Maybe sometimes
things get crowded and he has to go
and throw some things away.
And on and on. I often see him looking
at things he's about to buy
and maybe he's thinking,
"This will go next to the ashtray."
It's the arrangement.
The search. The temporary satisfaction.
Here's this trophy. Here's this figurine.
Here's this stone.

My head has become
this way.
People I've known and meet now.
Things I've said. And say
the foggy world of dreams.
Things I've wanted and want.
Desire. Fuck ups. I
think of my endless shelves
towering, reaching church cathedral heights.
Placing things here and there.
Years and still only working
on filling the bottom shelves.
Here's the old image of my father
home from work with his sleeves rolled up.
Here's my first dog put to sleep.
Here's me, eighteen, reaching up her white T-shirt.
These things were not connected when they happened
but somewhere along the line
they got placed side by side.
Here's my grade point average.
Here's my bank account.
Here's two months gone like that.
There you go.
Two years.
You find things
you don't remember putting there.
Was it there for a reason
or did you just stick it there in a hurry
on your way to do something else?
What you do is
maybe you have some beer
or wine
or tea
and maybe I reach up into your blouse.
Kiss your eyelids.
And we talk about it
and by the end of the night
who knows what it is.
Could be anything.
You can't spend too much time here.
It's like a museum.
You look.
It's puzzling,
oddly beautiful.
Then you move
before you become a display of dinosaur bones,
a surreal mystery of long ago.

John Korn is an artist living in Pittsburgh PA. You can check him and his work out at


Blogger djuana said...

Great poem, is this a poet who posts on My Space? I like the way the piece tugs at you, bringing you up to speed re what's at issue as if you were a priveledged observer of a slow developing photograph of a very interesting psychology.



11:07 AM  
Blogger Katie said...

I really like this poem. I forwarded the URL to another friend, actually. You've captured why I "collect" things, and it's something that I don't often hear verbalized. Thanks for making me feel connected.

10:17 AM  

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