Gabe Kahan

Evening at My Childhood Artist Residency

My eye is swelling like a sexual organ. The kind of libido you want to pretend isn't there. It's evening and my belly is empty. I feel hollow, like a dying tree. My head is spinning on its axis, but it hasn't crescendoed to the point where I'll put the computer down and go get food. Besides, I'm drinking tea. I'm consuming. That's a thing.

The reason my left eye is throbbing like an angry baby is because I've just communed with a golden retriever. It was my friend's. We leaned into her couch watching a disorienting comedy set—the kind where you don't mind furrowing into the sofa like it's week 3 of having the flu. It was great. But on the ride home my face began to itch and I cycled through all the things I had done that day, cataloguing my behavior, proofreading the last 48 hours for errors. It finally dawned on me that I was covered in the dog's flaxen mane.

Shit. I just itched my eye with my shirt. The shirt that has dog cooties on it. Now my eye has dog cooties. (For the record, I'm a total dog lover—like french-kisser-dog-lover. The issue is, my immune system isn't.) The actual eyeball itself feels like a sphere of sandy bonfire embers. Ok, fine, that's a pretty bad exaggeration. More like a marginally crumpled ball of printer paper.

I rest my case. I drink my tea.

The reason I began typing all this out, however, is that I'd like to turn the reader's focus to something particularly difficult. Something I don't quite understand. It's an ambiguous orb that's resting below my ribs and under my diaphragm. It's heavy like a bucket of water, but loose enough that I can get around with it joggling back and forth in my torso. It's been with me for the past three or four days. I could tell you the event that I think caused it, but it feels bigger than that. There's some queasy way in which it meets the inner membranes of my body. It makes me feel, like, doubtful. As if there's a character, an estranged goblin of a friend who left me at the age of 12 and has now returned to vent about frat parties and how he needs to quit smoking but midterms are a bitch. His voice feels like the aging carpet of a pawnshop. I keep pausing in my day to understand him, to listen. But as soon as he's in the spotlight he freezes, so of course I get bored and go on distracting myself.

Now he's simmered down, the heaviness is subsiding, but I wonder if that's the warmth of the tea sifting in my gut. My arms feel weak. I suppose my skin is feeling healthier with some liquid in my system, but my shoulders are achy. What is all of this? Maybe I need to start eating more. Right now I just have a dozen tears in my sweater that need sewing.

I'm almost done with my tea now. My belly is rumbling like a diseased elephant. I'm not sure what all of this means, but you have sticky notes and a pen, you figure it out. I'm going to go chat another friend and begin to meditate on where my goblin has gone to and where he will go next.


Gabe Kahan is a poet, freelance writer, the founding editor of Taxicab Magazine, and the head arts and music editor for Red Fez. His poems can be seen in Occulum, The Bitchin' Kitsch, Anti-Heroin Chic, The Paragon Journal, and others. He lives and writes in New York and Washington, DC. He never leaves the house without his Burt's Bees beeswax lip balm. You can follow him on Twitter @GabeKahan, or visit his website at