cover image by Steven B. Smith

Cut Me Free

Poems by Ben Heins

Limited edition dirty
published 2/25/2014 as CC#53
ISBN-13: 978-1-940996-06-6

Crisis Chronicles Press
John Burroughs, editor
3344 W. 105th Street #4
Cleveland, Ohio 44111 USA


I would like to extend my personal thanks to Nate Weaver, John Miller, Anthony Sagliani, and Mark Wonsidler for their steadfast support and guidance, as well as Liz-Abrams Morley, J.C. Todd, and Len Roberts. 

         for my teachers,
     present and otherwise

Letter of Disaffiliation to Freedmans Lutheran Church

There are pictures of dicks on Craigslist.
There are bullets in the heads of the Amish.
I suppose this letter has arrived too late.

Jesus would be pissed if he knew how hard
X and I fucked on the couch under his portrait –
warm, moaning in the library –

or would he have remembered us? What would he do
if he were me? Close his eyes; there are
too many mistakes. Keep turning that water into wine.

Someone cleaned out their desk today,
buried their child,
and what did I give in return?

There is a man freezing
knee-deep in Allentown, practicing isometrics
– WILL WORK FOR FOOD – and I lock my doors.

Delivering the Eviction Notice, Christmas Eve

I wake some nights still slipping off
his steps – Mr. Levitt – the rock salt

spinning beneath my loafered feet.
I am forced to feel again

the soft letterhead of his employment
termination, a middle-aged man sobbing

at my desk; the plastic calculator
clicking in my palm, adding

three months of late fees,
gas charges, water, sewer;

the constable’s clammy handshake
smacking as he gives me

the terrible notice, the simple
gift of consequence

from a collapsing country;
a heavy tape dispenser

in-hand as I scramble to make
four long strands for Levitt’s door,

to fasten his present

in the strangest blizzard –

snow blowing sideways, then
forward, then toward his cold

steps. I see his wreath
knocking, knocking, and I am close

enough to begin my job, to be

his neighbor or a delivery man,
and the door handle clicks

down, hot light washing outside –
three little girls, hair bouncing,

racing toward me.

Reconsidering the Single Father

You: my first sip of beer, the vomit
that followed. Please, father, do not judge me

as I prevent my couch from floating off
this Friday night, before my son arrives.

Allow me time to collect the spit
it takes to scream your name

into your answering machine
for decades without response. I felt a weight

lift from my body as you carried me
upstairs, a certain helplessness

when you clicked the light. Father, let us curl
back our bottom lips at the V

in divorce; explode the perfect O
as though we were yelling at our landlords

together. But imagine that:
together. And I harbor a hatred

for myself. It grows each time I brush
my son’s teeth. It grows in the tent-sleep

we share on vacation, and it’s
damn-near tragic. He will not forget me,

but will I reconsider my role –
my critical importance – for those years

that follow his twentieth birthday?
His fiftieth? Is this

my fate, father, to leave my son
but never fully disappear?

I think of training wheels and when you
finally took them off, me wobbling everywhere,

as I pull my beer to my lip.

I’ve Got This Grin You’ll See from Space When You Come Down

I’ve got this big ol’ grin you’ll see from space
when you come down. I’ll bet you anything
you’re still alive, no matter what they say.

I’ll wait for you all night – I just can’t sleep –
our cat Ezekiel will be here, too,
when you come down. I’ll bet you anything

you’ll spot my flashlight S.O.S. and you
could read another story, brush my hair.
Our cat Ezekiel will be here, too,

just rocking in my arms. I hear the stairs –
they start to shake and creak – if only I
could read another story, brush my hair

without your voice, your touch, to be my guide.
But hey, guess what? I see the stars and know
they start to shake and creak – if only I

could pull them loose and find you in the snow.
I’ve got this big ol’ grin you’ll see from space.
But hey, guess what? I see the stars and know
you’re still alive, no matter what they say.

In All Other Trembling Hands

I keep thinking this is the last time we’ll talk, I’ve saved every voicemail, every text,
they say your cancer is spreading, but
I am on the snowstorm Turnpike, it never lets me go 
                                                                                       go get the schedules, 
                                                                                              tell me they finally match –

and what if
                   what if what if we got to Key West
;                                                    and flicked our flight tickets into the sea? –

we’d be cured in no time, but now
even time spent with you is ending in deadline:

for every manila file I make, I dig one shovelful of dirt from your grave, 

               and in my head, nothing stops, I’m not paying attention, not paying 
          not paying you, but it’s not supposed to be a transaction, I’m distracted 
     and I can’t think about which drawer the calendar is in, 
          which bag in the trunk is keeping your pills, which bag 
       bag after bag, we’re all just a bag, another bag of shit in the trunk.

I get an hour’s lunch when I need ten months, writing, writing, and the words 
     never come.

      But what if this isn’t where we are,
   what if what if we’re underwater and you can breathe and there are no IVs
      and you can squeeze my hand and the water is crystal clear Grand Cayman?

Another traffic jam,
the news radio says I should just take a nap but I can’t I
can’t sleep anymore I can’t sleep anymore I just can’t
anymore I can’t

I want to race down this hellish highway stretch loafers slipping in the snow I want to 
          lose my hands and feet and teeth in the snow bleed black in the snow medevacked
          five exits away five thousand light years to your small bed where there’s heat
          pressed against you and the snow

beats down, a hand
beats down.

Music of the Downed Balloons

A dead boom, random,
sometime before dawn

as fog swept, trafficless,
scissors snipped,

cropped a second,
third, and if

the pink-pearl
bodies weren’t plucked

by rush hour, mid-day
they’d lay, soul-sucked,

mashed in the grass.
Bear witness to such sins:

Birthdays, fire halls, businesses –
soon every corner

became a graveyard,
emanating a raw

latex odor, leaving
in wake the happy spirits

of orange, blue puffed cheeks,
green, gold skin reduced

to a haphazard splatter,
a knot and a string

singing to someone,
anyone, Cut me free.

Songs from the Ruptured Amniotic Sac


O there is so much space I could have filled O I want

to stretch my legs to be                                      look

                                                                                                it’s my

                                                                                                                it’s your

                                    birth      /           death

you                                                                   I am the ruined metaphor

will repaint

                                                                                      webbed hands

the walls           they are in flames                      burn the house

                                                                          burn the house

     O                                                                               burn the house

                        the funnel


                                                                                    make it stop it

and I am no longer floating

I am pushed

          and a mask of skin bounds my face                                                the house


    push                                     God                is made


     push                                                                                of dust


                                                                                    is motionless

                                                                                                is fluid              

          the river runs r e d                                                                   God is
                 swimming in the smallest space                                                 was here

                                                                                                O where


does the light lead

Mother              I

                        wash                                                                      to more warmth


                I am you                                                         in and out and
                                                                                                                 O to air

I want to stop pressing against you
I want to see you
I long                                                                                                      no

                                                            to stay in the river              Mother

            I cannot breathe

The Smallest Space

I am a greeter today and the bulletins have vanished.

An old man smacks my shin with his cane, says,

Dammit, boy. Hoards of housewives give me stink-eye.

The red double-doors swing; I am not here.


I remember my favorite patient, the day we first met.

He is a tall man who shakes my hand, a man

who asks me to meet his friends that are not there,

who asks me not to crowd them because they could get

testy. I say, No problem. The next day, the ward doctors

switch his meds and three assistants are beat to death

in his bedroom, his door smashed open, both locks

broken. I let him run – and he does –

and security seals the exit door with a sheet of plate steel

that he snaps backward like a curling ribbon

and keeps running. They shoot him twice.

He hijacks an ambulance, catches a spike strip

on his way out, rides five miles, sparks splashing

behind him, slams into the side of a church,

sprints inside and collapses in front of the congregation,

bundling himself into the smallest space he can occupy,

arms locked around his knees, screaming for salvation.

I do not want to remember this.

But I do remember, and wish I knew the ending –

whether he lived the rest of his life in solitary or

– blood loss, red blood, plenty of it slow-painting

the church floor. But maybe the scream is the ending –

he is still screaming for God in that church. Maybe

it is this church, and the organ swell tuned

to his guttural yell, and all the stained glass shakes

under its sonic weight.


seeps through the space between the red double-doors

and bathes the backs of them in shadow. Lose me here.

Find me with that man’s friends

having dinner at an empty table for twelve,

all of us just laughing our asses off.

All morning,

I’ve been watching this thin blade of light

pass over my body, crawl up and down the crease

in my slacks, reveal the thick dust-scuff on my loafers.

A latecomer enters, and it’s all horrible sun,

everywhere and all over, pouring color into this hall,

and I wish it were less. It could all be less. These doors,

I stare at them hard, watch the light move. And something,

stirring, starts to break.

About the Author

Ben Heins is the author of Cut Me Free (Crisis Chronicles Press) and Greatest Hits & B-Sides (Vagabondage Press, 2012). He graduated from Rosemont College in 2012 with an M.F.A. in poetry and from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania in 2008 with a B.A. in professional writing and a minor in English literature. He currently teaches at Rowan University and the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.  Find him at