Three Poems by Kip Knott

It’s Just Human Nature

          “Death. It’s inevitable. There’s a hole you come out of
          and there’s a hole you’re gonna go in. . . . Being dead
          is a liberating experience.”
                    — from an interview in 2021 with Gary Betzner,
                    who faked his own death in 1977

Who knows what compels a man to jump off the edge
of a bridge in the middle of nowhere Arkansas,
wife and kids in the car, engine running,
churning river currents below whispering,
The water will save you. Come on in.

Drugs? Smuggling? Underworld kingpin? Spy?
The mind loves the unknown, the mysterious,
the impossible equation, the riddle left unsolved;
podcast fodder that draws the casual listener in
with what ifs, whodunits, and new clues.

If the world we live in today has shown us anything,
it has shown that we secretly crave catastrophe
when we watch the evening news, that we pray
for the hurricane to exceed expectations and destroy
everything—someone else’s everything.

After years of conjecture, the truth about the man
on the bridge reveals itself to be nothing
more than a hoax, an escape we secretly hoped
would keep our antihero free from 20-to-life behind bars.
We breathe a sigh of relief and let out an inaudible cheer.

But the real truth is this: we all hide secrets
deep beneath flesh, muscle, and bone; secrets
that eventually become too heavy to carry;
secrets that are just heavy enough to pull us under
roiling river water to a grave of silt and mud

where clouds of catfish wait to pick our bloated bodies clean.



                    May 24, 2022

I used to believe in the spirit animals
and gods that I found in constellations
of stars. But when I look at the sky tonight,

I see only bullet holes piercing the dark,
one for every child we’ve lost,
two for all the children we will keep losing

until constellations bleed together
and the night sky becomes something
other than night, something

horribly empty and horribly full.


Post-it Notes to a Young Poet

                    based on Post-it Note drawings by Aron Wiesenfeld

1. Post-it Note Drawing #28

Learn to wait. Rain won’t.
The bus isn’t a sure thing.
You are the rain. And the rain is.

2. Post-it Note Drawing #29

Be content to carry the burden
of all the words you plan to write
throughout your life.

3. Post-it Note Drawing #26

Feel free to worship anything.
Prayers are nothing
more than poems waiting to be written.

4. Post-it Note Drawing #25

Never forget: Shadows
have the power to cut
through more than light.

5. Post-it Note Drawing #38

A poem exists in that moment
after you’ve climbed atop the slide
and before you take the plunge.

6. Post-it Note Drawing #20

Learn to accept those moments
when your words become
someone else’s burden to carry.

7. Post-it Note Drawing #37

And learn to accept other moments
when poems slip formless as smoke
from your lips when you speak.

8. Post-it Note Drawing #40

Always remember that smoke carries
some part of you away as it rises up.
Be truthful in everything you say.

9. Post-it Note Drawing #22

If ever you lose the will to write,
burn all these notes and harvest
new words from the ashes.


Kip Knott’s debut collection of stories, Some Birds Nest in Broken Branches, was released earlier this year from Alien Buddha Press. His newest book of poetry, Clean Coal Burn, is available from Kelsay Books. He spends most of his spare time traveling throughout Appalachia and the Midwest taking photographs and searching for lost art treasures. You can follow him on Twitter at @kip_knott and read more of his work at

Distress Signals by Kip Knott

Distress Signals

                inspired by the artwork of Aron Wiesenfeld

                “There is a lot of darkness that people are confronting
                right now . . . . All people are like prisms, with internal
                characteristics, through which the world is filtered.”
                       —Aron Wiesenfeld


When I was a child I sailed
toy ships in the drainage ditch
beneath the looming overpass
that ran behind our house.

Tires speeding through puddles
overhead channeled crashing waves
that I imagined smashed against the hull
tied to the end of my line.

Breaching eighteen-wheeled
leviathans shook the world around me,
rippling rings of greasy rainbows
from one shore to the next.

Above everything, I heard my parents
shouting, not for me to come in,
but at each other, the way thunder yells
at lightning for flashing too bright.

To this day I still don’t know
if I was the one guiding the ship,
or if an otherworldly stowaway
had thrown a line to me

and I was waiting for someone
to pull me in, to pull me under.


It’s easy enough to step that one step forward and fall
endlessly away from the troubles that trouble the world
around me, around you, around us all.

To take that one step away from the edge and fall
back into all the divisions and ills that plague this world,
that step is the hardest step of all.

Whichever way I choose to move I know that I will fall
upon a high wire stretched between the precipice of a world
I will come to know all in all

and the precipice of a world that every day seems ready to fall.


The sight of my reflection
waving from the cell of a mirrored
windowpane stops me in my tracks
as I walk alone to work.

I wave back. My reflection
motions for me to join him.
Over both our heads, dark clouds
shift and churn in opposite directions.

Before I take another step, I must
decide if the blood that broken glass
will draw from shredded flesh
is worth the chance to learn

who lives on the other side of who I am.


We occupy a liminal space.
One of us stands, the other sits. We exist

together, apart,

not quite shadows, not quite

exist as both the same and other,

reversed, opposite.

One of us stands, the other sits. We exist
in an endless liminal space.


I have sometimes posed
myself in a final repose
just to know the shape of death.

And now, after years
of loneliness, I am too weak
to lift my head to see

if any pose I ever struck
actually matched the contours
of my body as I slowly

drift away.


Kip Knott’s first collection of short stories, Some Birds Nest in Broken Branches, is available from Alien Buddha Press. His most recent full-length book of poetry, Clean Coal Burn, is available from Kelsay Books. You can follow him on Twitter at @kip_knott and read more of his writing at


I would like to offer my thanks to Aron Wiesenfeld for creating the powerful and evocative artwork that inspired this poem. The following five paintings were particularly inspirational:

· “Study” (2020)
· “The Pit” (2019)
· “Morning” (2002)
· “Hallway” (1999)
· “Chris McCandless” (2003)