On Puzzlement

In the 1950s a CIA man designed a jail-break kit
that could be contained in a rectal suppository

He conceived tie-clip spy cameras and ultra-thin needles
to inject poisons into sealed bottles of wine

He tested mind-altering blends sometimes in fatal doses
on unsuspecting prisoners and brothel johns

Every day he’d return to his plumbing-free cabin
where he lived with his wife

All along he studied Buddhism meditated grew vegetables
got up before the roosters to milk his goats

After retiring he moved to India to volunteer in leprosariums

When I was three I wondered whether I’d sprouted
from the ground like a head of lettuce

It is the first thought I can remember
My first stride toward bewilderment

Today I saw a white shirt kiting high above the city
aimless like a ghost of a swan

Maybe we are meant to die of confusion
once it peaks and turns to awe


Peter Krumbach lives and writes in Southern California. His new collection Degrees of Romance, the winner of the 2022 Antivenom Poetry Award, will be published by Elixir Press in 2023. Most recent work is forthcoming from Alaska Quarterly Review, Denver Quarterly, Washington Square Review and X-R-A-Y.

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