How to not hold it together on Delta Shuttle flight 5936 ORD to LGA

BY Gabriel Kalmuss-Katz

Wake up an hour earlier than you need to, stare at the desert of non-fitted sheets. Take somebody’s seat on the blue line to O’Hare. Drink the free steaming coffee-colored water in the plastic cups meant for juice so you’ll be able to tell yourself that your stomach is churning from digesting melted plastic and not from anything else. Regret almost every decision you’ve made for the past two years. Cut off the man walking slow with the baby so you can cry in the bathroom. Try to sync your tears to the sound of automatic toilets but give up very quickly, because it’s 7:30 in the morning and there aren’t that many people in the O’Hare Terminal 2 bathroom and the toilets don’t flush themselves like they do in Newark Liberty International (you discovered that in the midst of bad decisions of the past two years). Use the free wifi. Reopen your Gmail account 30 times in 90 seconds. See if you can beat that speed. See if you can break your computer reloading endlessly. Get on the flight next to a well-dressed Haitian man. For no other reason than the reason for your trip and the reason of the past two years, communicate through the language barrier that you have the window seat he is sitting in, even though your row doesn’t actually have a window. Use the free wifi on the plane, discover more things you wish you hadn’t. Consider throwing your laptop a distance spiteful enough to stop all this. After the Haitian man has gotten his drink and is comfortable, make him stand up because you can’t maintain what the button-down shirt purchased at some point in the two years of bad decision making would suggest. Go to the bathroom. Cry harder. Close your eyes until the tears can’t come out and they just sting in place, liquid hornets. Do not worry if the flight attendants hear you, if they suspect anything or suspect you as a suspect of suspicious etc. Cry until the seatbelt light goes on and you have to return to your seat. When you go back to your seat, continue to cry, and realize there is exactly one thing which might mollify, which might assuage, which might do what synonyms of the world “help” would do without actually being the word help and all that the word “help” means.

“Xian Undertaker” is from the Silkworm album It’ll Be Cool.

Play the song again and again, even if you cannot stop crying and even if you do manage to stop crying. Play it at volumes that hurt your ears which already hurt from the amount you grind and misplace and mistreat your jaw on a daily basis due not exclusively, but in large part, to 2 years of bad decision making. Listen to the song so loud that even if the Haitain man to your right doesn’t know why you’re crying, he has a vague sense of what is causing you to stop crying.

“Xian Undertaker” is from the Silkworm album It’ll Be Cool.

See that the flight just crossed the Delaware. You’ll be landing soon. When you land and turn on your phone, find out that you were rejected from the last writing program you were waiting to hear back from this year. Take the M60 to the A train. Question whether you want to go anywhere in this city or whether it feels too much like a maze from the book the little child across from the Haitian man was scrawling dull pencil circles all over, ignoring the exact purpose of a maze, but assume that’s just what kids do. Ignore the fact that that was a terrible metaphor and the exact fucking reason you got rejected from nearly every writing program you applied to this year. You are now in New York City, so don’t cry. Take the train uptown to 168th St where you will not want to answer any questions your mother asks when you arrive at her office. Do not take off your headphones and do not stop listening to the song over and over, even if she asks you to or social logic would dictate that you should.

“Xian Undertaker” is from the Silkworm album It’ll Be Cool.

That’s the key. Do not stop listening to the song until you change your mind about something you’ve written here or at least until you’ve scrubbed your face of anything resembling non-rain related moisture. Wonder whether this record is necessary. Wonder whether sharing this is just one more poorly chosen option. Wonder what happened to the woman who killed this band’s drummer when she ran him over, driving recklessly in an attempt at vehicular suicide. She survived it, you know, so wonder how she wakes up these days. Listen to the song again. Listen to the song again. Go for a walk through the suburbs feeling like you probably felt when you were 14 years old. You are now in New Jersey, so cry. Cry when you get back to your block in front of the Orthodox Jewish children returning from yeshiva, who look at you and move away. Listen to the song again, and realize how much the song, yes, you can say it now, helped. Realize that today and probably for a lot longer than today you’ve been as fragile and inconsistent and petulant as a 14 year old child. You couldn’t help yourself today, so the song did. Listen to song again.

“Xian Undertaker” is from the Silkworm album It’ll Be Cool.

Understand how good this song is. Understand that when this passes, you will never be able to listen to this song again. You’ve got probably a half dozen other songs like that from various points in your life, that you can’t even let yourself name, much less listen to. Listen to the song again.


This also appears, though in different form, on the mp3 blog


Gabriel reads "How to not hold it together..."

Gabriel Kalmuss-Katz finally feels like Chicago is home, a lovely home at that, and so he is confused as to why he is uprooting his life and moving to California. Then he reminds himself that he will be starting at the UC-San Diego MFA program this fall, and that he can always come back to the midwest once he's done with that. His work has appeared in Curbside Splendor, After Hours, and Juncture. He blogs about music at and, with his friend and fellow poet Naomi Schub, run Na Zdravi Na Shledanou Press.