Phil Kaye

Phil Kaye – Live at Icehouse (Video)

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By Button poetry

Phil Kaye, performing at Icehouse in Minneapolis, MN.

Phil Kaye – Live at Icehouse

Transcript provided by YouTube:

00:31

Is sitting on the couch with Ben, my best friend, who has a bowl cut

00:35

Like I do and I asked Ben what he wants to do and Ben says what he always says:

00:40

I don’t know dude, what do you wanna do?

00:44

And I don’t know either because it’s already two months in the summertime and we have done everything

00:48

We think we can do, played basketball so many times Ben knows I will never go left

00:54

Stayed up until midnight to watch the r-rated VHS tapes my mother owns, pulled each other around in a wagon

01:01

Toilet papered every house on the street except for our own

01:06

And so we turn on the television and Indiana Jones is playing and afterwards we go outside

01:14

Because there is no internet and we stare at the big tree on our Street

01:19

the tree that is bigger than Ben’s entire house that we have never been able to climb because we are little kids but now

01:26

We are little kids that just watched Indiana Jones

01:31

and so we find some old bungee cords

01:33

and the hooks of those bungee cords find themselves into our belt loops and we tie the other side’s around the tree and now we are

01:39

Halfway up the tree, that is bigger than Ben’s entire house and I quietly think to myself: maybe I am Indiana Jones.

01:47

and Ben quietly thinks to himself

01:54

And my belt loops quietly think to themselves, what the fuck

02:00

But we were all thinking quietly

02:03

And so for a moment, it is silent and at nine years old I transform into things I have never been before

02:11

An astronaut floating in space,

02:13

the hummingbird buzzing in place, a beam of August light floating through the windows

02:19

and then I hear a crack which is not Indiana

02:21

Jones’s whip but my belt loops snapping apart shrieking relief and I fall all the way down the tree onto my back

02:28

and Ben rushes down and says, are you okay?

02:36

and Ben starts to laugh and I start to laugh and I’m bleeding from my elbow, but it’s just a scrape

02:42

And that means that I am human and we are alive here tonight and we sit

02:49

Quietly till my mother comes searching

02:57

Thank you all. Thank you so much. Thank you!

03:12

This is a whole,this is as a thing here

03:18

I was walking around downtown and I’ve lived in New York for for nine years now and so you kind of have like a walking downtown face

03:27

and this person was like, excuse me, and when you’re in New York, if someone says, “excuse me” to you

03:32

The last thing you do is acknowledge their existence

03:35

But they’re like excuse me and they kind of like popped up and then we made eye contact and I’m like now I’m fucked

03:41

And they’re like, I’m sorry. Can I, can I tell you something?

03:49

And they’re like, you kind of look like Jesus

03:57

It was like kind of unclear whether it was a compliment or not

04:02

But thank you Minneapolis

04:22

Has a beginning, middle and end not necessarily in that order

04:30

Chapter 394 the boy hair still long fingers still too short

04:38

sits at a restaurant alone

04:40

The stranger sitting next to him is eating bread pudding, the boys favorite, the boy takes his fork

04:46

Sticks it in the strangers meal and takes a bite

04:49

Chapter 14 the boy is seven years old. He and his best friend have a great idea for a prank

04:54

They are sure they’ll not get caught. The next morning every house on the street has toilet paper in the front yard

05:06

Chapter 146 and the boy and the girl live happily ever after

05:11

Chapter 231 and the boy and the girl vow never to speak to each other again

05:15

Every great story has a beginning middle and end not necessarily in that order. We are all great stories though

05:21

not all written as chapter books.

05:25

There are hours not meant to be bound

05:28

When…w when we have scribbled too much in the margins to read our own page numbers, like the night you thought you were invincible

05:35

Ran out into the lightning storm with a million keys

05:39

Tied to a million kites and a clench in your jaw that said, “take me with you. Dammit. I dare you”

05:46

When you finally reached out to feel your father’s cheeks and

05:54

The nights we shatter our glasses to fall asleep

05:57

the afternoons we take photographs of our own shadows just to prove that we left a mark, but

06:05

reminding myself the wetness of my own lips

06:09

that I am a leaf off of the tree of my parents first kiss

06:13

and If I hold my shrubs to the sky I can still see their veins there

06:18

Every great story has a beginning middle and end not necessarily in that order

06:24

The boy too old now to celebrate his birthdays and too young to treasure them uses his fists

06:32

Punches his own reflection to see if it is real

06:35

Breaks his hand back into the opposite of a fist: a conch, shell of sinew

06:40

Puts it to his ear and can hear the ocean of his own bloodline

06:47

Not just with your legs, be your own story, you magnificent page-turner, you 600 words per minute

06:53

You never stop to read the back cover, even though you know what happens at the end

07:01

Once upon a time there was a boy

07:05

But the branches he left all hold their leaves to the sky and you can see the outline of his shadow on the sidewalk

07:12

Prologue: once upon a time there was a woman and a man and the first night they kissed,

07:17

a seedling blossomed from the back of her neck

07:36

Um, before we do anything else. Can we give another round of applause for those amazing openers?

07:49

For those three ladies that came up here and crushed it, also like if you do not know this already you may know this but

07:55

Minneapolis and St. Paul, the Twin Cities, have an amazing poetry ugh

07:59

Community here right here um so you do not need to go far. I feel a little guilty. I’m very honored that I’m here

08:07

ugh, but I’m also kind of like, you know, I feel like the fucking import, you know, like fuck and buy local, you know,

08:17

It is ugh..this is a really

08:19

ugh special night this book came out ugh about two weeks ago and

08:26

This is the third show I’ve got to do with this book in the world and to celebrate it and ugh tonight particularly

08:31

I want to try a bunch of new poems from the book that I have literally never read before I may have read on..

08:39

One of the things I loved about this book was was getting to explore new things and new stories. That hadn’t been told

08:45

ugh to anybody and sometimes to myself had been locked away somewhere in there

08:51

And so this is one of those

09:03

I don’t remember the day my parents stopped speaking Japanese to me

09:08

Maybe sometime in kindergarten when I had trouble understanding people

09:18

After some glance, I don’t remember in a grocery store parking lot in California

09:24

Holding my father’s furry Jewish hand as he spoke Perfect Japanese to me

09:29

some confused housewife’s eyebrows

09:33

Shaming us back to this country or maybe during some early playdate

09:40

With a new sunny white boy in our living room. I just

09:44

Stopped speaking it back to them

09:47

By the time my sister was born years later. The old language had been locked away somewhere in the house

09:54

an aging holiday decoration we took out and looked at

10:00

thought about tossing completely

10:05

I fantasise sometimes about being a family that speaks their mother tongue at dinner in mixed company

10:11

We look over at each other

10:14

Lower our voice into an octave only blood can decipher

10:22

Toa tub [speaking in Japanese]

10:25

Don’t use your hands when you eat

10:28

Lately at the dinner table

10:31

My mother whispers a mundane incantation in Japanese to my sister

10:37

After silence, she says it again

10:40

speaks into a canyon with no echo

10:44

Utters it one more time, makes my sister say

10:50

I don’t understand what you’re saying

10:54

and suddenly my grandmother is there

11:18

I got to write about all sorts of, of weird things in this book. I wrote a poem about ugh

11:25

Which is great. Make some noise if you’ve ever faked sick in your life

11:30

And it’s properly jovial

11:33

Can anybody say with like full confidence that they never faked sick ever?

11:37

If you’re too polite you can raise your hand

11:41

Yeah, no one I mean that’s okay to me it’s always been like a big red flag

11:45

You know like never faking sick is like you ever meet someone and they’re like out of nowhere

11:50

They’re kind of like oh, yeah, I never had a soda in my life. You know, like what the fuck?

11:55

And it’s always the same shit. It’s like oh my parents never let me have it and I don’t know

12:00

I just never developed a taste for it

12:02

Huge red flag right? because it’s, it’s one of two scenarios

12:06

one is that they’re lying

12:09

and at some point in their life, they’ve had a soda, even if they didn’t like it. They’ve had one

12:19

Fucking seven-year-old them is at their birth… like their friend’s birthday, at fucking chuck-e-cheeses or some shit

12:25

And like the orange soda is coming around and it gets to them like, they’re like “Oh, no, thanks. Oh, no, sorry”

12:31

My teeth are still growing in and

12:42

There’s a…[laughs] there’s a a series of poems in the book

12:48

That the internet pops up a lot in the book and ugh there’s a series of poems where the internet speaks back to me

12:56

In different ears ugh and it’s more fancily called in the book the internet speaks back to the author

13:02

Because I thought that might sound

13:07

But this is: the internet speaks back to the author 2018

13:20

Tell me what you want ♪ every door you enter I

13:26

my friend Rihanna said that

13:28

You want to see her? Here she is

13:30

Parts of herself she never meant to show you, but I got them for you

13:39

a man belly flopping onto a lake, a goat climbing on people doing yoga, a baby crying hysterically and now laughing

13:46

a magician revealing his tricks,

13:47

a photo of your old best friend

13:49

who called you three days ago.

13:55

You like it better that way

13:57

Look how you two dressed up together that Halloween

14:01

He doesn’t want to do that

14:06

I won’t let him change. I promise

14:11

Here, the woman you kissed two nights ago.

14:13

She was recently in Florida. It was colder than she expected.

14:17

Here: her mother, two Huskies, little brother’s graduation, view from the old apartment,

14:22

best sushi she’s ever had, her bestie, bestie’s favorite bar, bestie’s untouched birthday cake, bestie’s new boyfriend, bestie’s trip to Chicago

14:29

Bestie’s photo under the beam, bestie’s girls weekend.

14:33

She shared it with me so that I could show you

14:38

The woman you loved years ago

14:42

The Marigold of her drink she had on her honeymoon

14:45

You don’t like sweet drinks, right?

14:52

What an architect you’ve become?

14:55

There you are, your face wonderfully frozen, your funny joke it took you so long

15:21

Was thinking about this today

15:25

I was like walking around, you ever be like walking around all of a sudden you’re like, I wonder

15:30

what my middle school bullies were doing are doing now on Facebook

15:38

They’re like inexplicably always the people that are out there like posting way too much on Facebook

15:46

My like main middle school bully has now inserted his middle name onto Facebook and it’s “legend”

15:56

So for example and I won’t use his name because I’ll protect his pathetic bully ass

16:05

But if you take like I just a dumb fucking name, I don’t know Brett Kavanaugh

16:11

audience [laughter and cheers]

16:20

I wonder if that’s what…

16:27

This is what I mean in some ways it is legendary. 15 years later, Minneapolis, speaking his name

16:41

This is a very short poem from the book

16:55

after our fifth morning together

16:57

That my travel was too difficult for you and this had to end

17:04

and had just bought a succulent

17:06

With round leaves like plump emeralds

17:10

Promising an easy and long survival.

17:13

I carried it home with both hands

17:16

Committed to its nominal care

17:19

The plant lasted a few months until a particularly long trip away the death of a plant so visual

17:27

the discoloration of the skin

17:30

The limp extremities laying to rest on the dirt.

17:34

I wondered aloud about repotting it

17:37

perhaps more water and closer attention

17:40

A spot in the apartment with direct sunlight

17:44

“Easier to just get another one” comes the new voice from the other room

18:08

So my my my grandparents come up very often uhh in my work and have really meant a ton to me

18:16

And this is a poem about my my American grandfather

18:19

uhh and to give you a visual of my American grandfather he had like this gigantic white beard

18:27

and and had like this amazing belly that he used to eat dinner off of like very proudly

18:35

um and he owned ugh a war surplus store that was really almost exactly this size

18:45

Junk essentially [laughs]

18:47

that he had collected from around the country and really meant the world to him and that place meant a lot to me and I

18:53

I worked there and I grew up there in a lot of ways ugh and when he passed away about five years ago the store closed

18:59

And ugh I was thinking about him in that place

19:01

ugh and so I wrote this poem for him.

19:07

I keep doing this hair thing, but it’s really hot up here and I’m sweating

19:29

My grandfather was not a strong man

19:32

But he knew what it meant to build

19:34

In 1947 after he and my great-uncle’s returned from the Second World War

19:41

“Union War Surplus Store”

19:44

The store slogan: from a battleship to a hunting knife we have it or we’ll get it

19:49

My grandfather was not a strong man, but he kept his word. The place was half store half encyclopedia

19:56

Packed all the way to the ceiling with odd objects that somebody somewhere might want: steel toe boots

20:07

Fire-resistant overalls, a Czechoslovakian dental kit from 1964

20:14

all the way to the basement

20:18

That somebody somewhere else might forget about, but not here,

20:24

Richard who who did not work there, but showed up every Sunday afternoon in his full military uniform

20:31

Never once bought a damn thing

20:34

But once brought his little girl, held her hand said this

20:39

Is what it smelled like when daddy was a hero

20:42

My grandfather was not a strong man, but he kept us safe

20:46

we walked together in the park one night

20:48

and a jagged man with more tattoo than skin walked up directly to my grandfather said “Hey old man!

20:55

My father used to take me to your store when I was a kid and you shook my hand once

21:08

My grandfather’s office was upstairs

21:10

But he liked to work down on the floor

21:13

Gave anybody a smile. Everybody called him cheerful Al

21:16

With his big belly, bald head, long gray beard, little kids would see him and go

21:25

Six years after a “Union War Surplus Store” opened its doors my grandfather had a son, my dad.

21:32

He is not a strong man, but he knows what it means to build. One summer when he was a teenager. He worked the store

21:40

Built this door in the back. It’s still there

21:44

40 years after “Union War Surplus Store” opened its doors. My father had a son.

21:52

But I’m trying to learn what it means to build

21:55

One summer when I was a teenager. I worked at the store, built this display that went all the way up to the ceiling

22:04

Ran to my grandfather, showed him what I had done

22:07

Very good Philip, very good. When I asked him what to do next. He handed me an old piece of paper, a beat-up pen

22:14

when I asked him what to do with it, he shrugged his shoulders and laughed

22:48

I wrote this poem a little while ago that that

22:51

touches on my my parents divorce and my parents split and it it touches specifically on the night that that happened umm

23:00

But there was a lot more pieces to that

23:02

and ugh and and one of the things I got.. a lot more little moments um and I got to explore those a little bit more

23:09

um In this book and this is one of them

23:11

um which is the the night

23:14

my parents split and and the first night we

23:17

Visited my dad in his apartment. He had to like

23:20

Get this new place to live

23:22

ugh this was like two nights after and we we stayed with him

23:38

My father, sister and I walk up the stairs to his hastily rented apartment

23:44

For the first time since my parents separation

23:47

the inaugural night of “dad’s time”

23:51

My father is quiet. There are many flights of stairs

23:55

We focus on the load we are carrying

23:58

rented lamps, rented sheets, rented plates

24:05

My parents break happened over just one night

24:08

Though my sister and I had heard creaking for years so loud It kept us up some nights

24:14

I would find out later that my father imagined this particular walk up the stairs

24:20

dozens of times before it happened

24:24

Envisioned every barbed comment my sister and I might offer

24:28

The punctures they would make in his tired body

24:31

How he wouldn’t be able to sew them back up

24:34

Why are there so many stairs?

24:36

These rooms are so small!

24:38

Why is everything so bare? Where are we gonna go play? Daddy I want to go home!

24:49

was how quiet it was that evening for the first time

24:59

on some abandoned battlefield

25:03

The promise that there will be no more fighting, the strange relief of blood that has finally begun to dry

25:11

the way my father recalls it

25:13

We made it up the stairs and walked through the door

25:18

Flipped on the barren overhead light bulb, the walls dull white

25:23

I set down the weight that I was holding

25:43

All right, y’all , I’m gonna do three more poems

25:47

Thank you all for being here ugh it is it is really special to have you all here to share this with in this beautiful space

26:12

another poem ugh about when my grandparents ugh which is about my grandmother

26:18

Who was my favorite person growing up hands down.

26:21

she was married to to cheerful Al,

26:28

you know in retrospect she was like the Robocop of grandmothers. She was like really primed

26:33

She was like a kindergarten teacher and a family therapist

26:39

Then was literally a teacher about parenting

26:43

But as like a nine-year-old, you’re just like you’re the fucking best person umm

26:49

I didn’t recognize your pedigree

26:55

and she really loved stories um

26:58

and always told them and always shared them and I think had a huge impact on on what I love to do now

27:05

and so this a poem for her

27:35

Each one dressed for a celebration: that memory there in the white blazer on the dance floor

27:41

Is the memory of her wedding day.

27:46

That memory there in the long purple dress staring out the window

27:50

The day my father left for college

27:52

That memory there hunched over his food? The day she got her first cavity filled. My grandmother’s ballroom

28:01

My grandmother used to tell me stories

28:05

remember when you and I made strawberry jam?

28:12

Well, you were eight years old, inside my grandmother’s ballroom a woman in a red gown and mistletoe eyebrows clears her throat

28:21

carefully kisses fork to wine glass

28:23

Tells the story of a boy and his grandmother

28:27

How they picked out the reddest strawberries in the store

28:31

how they made so much jam they ate until it was summer again, each time the boy thinking

28:41

It started slowly, at first, there are things we can forget and no one notices

28:48

Philip where did we park the car? What was the soup of the day again? I thought the movie started at 8:00

28:56

Inside my grandmother’s ballroom

29:01

her memories drunk on a wine they had never tasted before

29:05

A cancer no one understood

29:09

Philip, what’s your father’s phone number?

29:12

We went to Hawaii together?

29:16

It’s your birthday today?

29:19

Her memories slurring their words

29:24

Staggering across the dance floor lifting their glasses for more

29:32

What day is this? Why am I in the hospital?

29:40

The last time I got to see her she could not speak eyes closed

29:52

Remember the time you and I made strawberry jam? No

29:57

Let me tell you and my grandmother silently in bed squeezes my hand

30:04

Somewhere a woman in a red dress feet blistered still dancing taken by the music

30:37

for for a lot of us to watch all these

30:42

um and is unfortunately not a new thing um

30:51

a difficult thing to not get drowned under um and I’ve been trying to find little moments

30:59

Joy, and to things that appreciate that nothing to do with um

31:04

What may or may not be on television and so this is a new poem that I never tried

31:11

uhh which is a little bit of an appreciation for

31:14

little things in all of you and it is it is still an amazing thing ugh

31:18

to travel to get on a plane and show up to a room full of people that

31:22

Care anything about what you do and any of the words you have so so, thank you

31:38

Be thankful for my mosquito lover

31:41

Leaving her kiss on my body for days to come

31:44

Whoa, be thankful that I am wanted

31:47

By the earth, if no one else

31:50

Waiting to hold my body again

31:56

Be thankful for the beasts who have laid down against their will so that I may nourish

32:00

Whoa, be thankful for the warmth of the full stomach, the summer sidewalk, my grandmother’s jiggling arm

32:08

Whoa, be thankful for the cool of the frothy Pacific, the crisp pillow, the popsicle now melting down my hand

32:17

Whoa, be thankful for the ridges in the redwood.

32:22

that scratched the black bear

32:24

Whoa, be thankful for each ring in the red bark

32:28

each wrinkle in the knuckle

32:31

Whoa, will be thankful for the wood above my head

32:34

that meets the water and does not rest

32:40

Whoa, be thankful for my sister who meets the water from my cheek and does not rest even when invited

32:49

Woah be thankful for rest

32:51

with its unrelenting invitation

32:54

Woah be thankful for the day I finally acquiesced

33:00

May the roots of a small plant

33:05

Hold me in its sprawling embrace say nothing of my name and survive the winter

33:26

All right, y’all, um this is my last poem

33:31

Thank you so much for for being here. It takes a lot of energy to be up here on stage

33:36

ugh sharing poems, but I also know it takes a shit-ton of energy to be to be out in the audience

33:42

Listening to all of this and and digesting it all ugh

33:46

Particularly, if you got dragged here [laughs] does anybody just get like dragged here as a friend and are like what the fuck is going on?

33:55

When are they gonna start rapping

34:00

This is the weirdest open mic I’ve ever seen this dude’s been going on forever

34:08

After this finishes ugh, I’m gonna set up shop right here

34:16

Yeah, thanks for you know, I get you know, take the book if not hand it to someone on the street

34:22

You guys do that shit here, don’t you?

34:25

Like some real Minneapolis shit. Here’s some reading

34:35

But really thanks you all for being here. Thanks to the the folks who opened the many poets are in here

34:39

There’s many poets that I adore and look up to that made it here tonight

34:44

So thank you all for being here. It really means a lot to me

34:48

and enjoy yourselves, tip well, eat, the food is delicious! I had the fucking

34:55

And I was eating them. I was like, what the fuck?

35:00

Where are these shrimps coming from? You’re a mysterious place, Minneapolis.

35:06

Shit was fresh as fuck. Okay

35:10

Thank you all, this is my last poem, take care

35:20

My mother taught me this trick

35:25

If you repeat something over and over again, it loses its meaning,

35:31

homework homework homework homework homework homework homework homework see nothing

35:37

Our lives she said are the same way

35:40

You watch the sunset too often. It just becomes 6 pm

35:44

You make the same mistake over and over you’ll stop calling it a mistake

35:49

If you just wake up, wake up. wake up. Wake up. Wake up. Wake up one day you’ll forget why

35:58

My parents left each other when I was seven years old

36:02

Before their last argument, they sent me out to the neighbor’s house

36:07

jettisoned from the shuttle

36:12

There was no gravity in our home

36:15

I Imagined it as an accident

36:17

And when I left they whispered to each other “I love you”

36:21

So many times over that they forgot what it meant

36:24

Family family family family family family family, my mother taught me this trick

36:30

If you repeat something over and over again, it loses its meaning

36:33

This became my favorite game and made the sting of words evaporate separation separation separation. See!

36:40

Nothing apart apart apart apart see! nothing

36:45

I’m an injured handyman now.

36:48

I work with words all day. Shut up. I know the irony

36:52

When I was young I was taught the trick to dominating language was breaking it down

36:58

Convincing it that it was worthless. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. See

37:06

Soon after my parents divorce, I developed a stutter

37:12

Fate is a cruel and efficient tutor

37:15

There’s no escape in stutter. You can feel the meaning of every word drag itself up your throat

37:25

Stutter is a cage made of mirrors

37:28

Every, what ‘d you say?

37:30

Every, just take your time. Every, come on kid spit it out. There’s a glaring reflection of an existence you cannot escape

37:38

every awful moment trips over its own announcement again and again and again until it just hangs there in the center of the room

37:45

as if what you had to say had no gravity at all

37:52

I’m not wasteful with my words anymore even now

37:56

After hundreds of hours practicing away my stutter. I can still feel the claw of meaning in the bottom of my throat

38:05

I’ve heard that even in space

38:08

You can hear the scratch of an I..I..I..I..I..I..

38:19

Thank you all very very much. Thank you so much. Have a great wonderful

Phil Kaye

This post was previously published on YouTube


Photo credit: Screenshot from video

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