© 2015 . All rights reserved.

Bill Kushner reads When I Was Five

On Saturday, September 4, 2010, at Saint Mark’s Church, Bill read “When I was Five.” It would be published the following year by Sputyen Duyvil in his last book, Walking After Midnight. Bill reads it with all the noise of the traffic and people passing by on Second Avenue. Some garbage trucks go Boom! And the horns beep Wonk! But that is all fitting background for a poet whose ducks go Quack! whose wind goes Whoosh! and whose cold says Brrrr! The poem was new to me so it was a thrill hearing it for the first time.




What I was was tiny balls of tinsel and
lust. When I was five I was already
in deepest love. You can say what you
want, and you will, but back then that
love it was love. I would croon to my
pillow, love oh love. I would suck on
my bottle of Yoo-Hoo, love oh love.
I would watch my father paint a room,
love oh love, and he would say Shut up.
I would watch my mother cook and broom,
oh love Mom love, and she would say Shut
up. All for love when love then was now
that was love. My restless bed awake
with it, love. Would gather sticks of wood
from the forest of love. Would I frighten
the wolves? yes, for love was love, and there
was none other. Would I even terrify the
sparrows and the doves? yes, for love was yes
love. I ate wild berries and ripe cherries, and
with my mouth as red as new blood, I sang it:
love love love. I grew angry when I could not
see my love, could not smell my love, oh love.
Everyone else grew out of it, gathered
their stars and drove off in their shiny new cars,
but not I, for somehow, year after year, there I
was, still five, and they don’t allow me to drive,
no not I and my heart, drugged on love. Dear
heart, you still drugged on love? And my poor
heart’s answer? Yes, love, yes you and all you,
love, love, laave.

3/16/09 revised 1/27/10


Walking After Midnight is published by Sputyen Duyvil. You can check them out here:




Leave a Reply