At 12 years old I taste my first dose of rejection.

I  have a crush on Samantha 

at MichaelÕs bar mitzvah party I ask Samantha to dance.

this is huge.

she says yes. 

this is scary.


before I know it the DJ is playing Kelly ClarksonÕs ÒA Moment Like ThisÓ

I straighten my clip-out tie

Samantha is smiling as much as the rubber bands on her braces allow her to

this is the epitome of Middle School Romance

my hands are clasping her waist, trying to make something

like a millennial clasping parts from Ikea

or like a husband sitting at a pottery wheel because his wife made him join her at a class

I look up at Samantha 

she towers at least 5 inches above

it seems like 5 feet


she looks down at me.

we lock eyes.

and I am going to doing this,

leaning in to kiss her gently 


She gives me a cheek and walks away

and I learn that sometimes a cheek is all you get

when you want some lip

and Rejection looks different 


as I head toward the exit Sarah S. tells me she will dance with me

Sarah is a nice girl with pretty eyes

and we sway neither of us knowing if we should go right or left

laughing because we are nervous and probably look ridiculous 

but we continue anyway

and all of the sudden 

rejection looks different.



By Myself


I am 25 years old

And I still donÕt know what strength looks like


But I do know a 7-year-old 

who tells me that anxiety reminds her of black clouds

because stormy weather passes 

and the sun eventually comes out.


I have been in school for almost 20 years now

I have almost 2 college degrees

and I still canÕt come up with a definition for resilience


But I do know a 10-year-old

who tells me that since her parentsÕ divorce

she tries to swallow her guilt like a

chunk of ice lodged in her throat

and she knows that right now it hurts

but eventually ice melts.


I have switched career paths

and professions

and courses of study.

 I still donÕt know what change looks like


But I do know a 15-year-old

who two weeks ago, met me in silence

who sat across from me and had a staring contest 

with a floor rug for 30 minutes

two weeks later I met him as a different person

mouth running like a Detroit DD15 engine

an engine who began to say I think I can 

and who started to believe it was true.


I have many friends 

a few that I have been lucky to know

for a long while

and a family who loves me a lot

and I sometimes, I still feel very alone

and I donÕt know what that is about


But I do know a 12-year-old

who asks me, 

Do you ever think itÕs okay to play by yourself?


I think itÕs okay.

I think so.



I Will Not Even Try


I measure my importance

through the amount of people

who have talked about me

in their therapy sessions.


I calculate my strength

in the number of people

who have handed me a jar of pickles

and have said hey, can you do this?


I monitor my popularity

by the number of texts I get

when I RSVP, not going

to my high school reunion invitation.


But there are some things

that I am realizing

I should not try and quantify.

Things that I cannot

put a number next to.


Like when I walk out the door

of your apartment building

on a brisk day between fall and winter,

and I feel the wind run its hand

through the curls of my hair

and it feels exactly how things should feel

and I open my eyes


and I realize that this was not in fact the wind at all.

It was your hand

and it was you


And I do not think I could possibly measure that experience

Or compare it to anything else in the world


So I will not even try



ChrisÕs Basement


It is 2011 and it is 1am and I am in Chris's grandmaÕs basement. And ChrisÕs grandma either doesnÕt care what we are doing, or she doesnÕt know what we are doing, 

but I think it is a combination of both. 


And she and I have something in common there because I do not know what I am doing there either. I just know I am very drunk and a little stoned and it only cost me $4.50 and a trip to the deli on Richmond Avenue, across from the Shoprite,  where I buy Coors tall boys from a man whose name I do not know. I am a 19-year-old trapped in a 14 year old body, and this man either doesnÕt know or doesnÕt care, 

but I think it is a combination of both.


In ChrisÕs grandmaÕs basement, I talk to Courtney about some play that I am pretending to read for one of my college classes and most of what I say is what I have taken from my classmates who are actually reading for real. Courtney has long frizzled hair that reminds me of California. She wears thick black rimmed glasses that remind me of the women at the bars on the Lower East Side who I will not know for years. She smokes American spirits. She works at a pizzeria that is next to a skate shop on Victory Boulevard. She wears flannel and leather and I imagine she is stoned most of the time and if I were taller, and if she seemed less sure of herself, and I had not known she had had sex with men older than me,  

I would try to make out with her.


But instead, I text Kim. Text her with heavy fingers, and minimal words, and no punctuation and whatever I send to her is a blur, but it gets her to come to ChrisÕs basement very quickly. Kim is short. She is better than me in science and majors in nutrition. She still has braces, and she has not yet grown into her style. I have giggled with Kim more than I have spoken with her. I kiss her. I watch Courtney from the corner of my eye, as I touch KimÕs left boob. This is all I know at 19; Touching boobs and peering at women I will never actually speak to. Kim either doesnÕt know or doesnÕt care, 

but I think it is a combination of both.



Strange Mail


Does it scare you

that Today came like strange mail

from an anonymous sender

With no return address in sight

Does it scare you

That once you open this envelope

You will read things that you cannot unread

You will speak aloud with words you cannot unsay

Somewhere there is a boy

A boy Ready enough to soon apply for

The damage of student loans

A boy old enough to lose limbs overseas

But not quite ready to get his braces off

A boy Not quite mature enough to be trusted to drink responsibly

Soon this boy will receive an envelope

From a place a few state lines away

And he will read the words

We regret to inform you

That your application was not accepted

He will say these words aloud

But his mind will hear the sentence

You are not good enough

And he will sometimes believe this.

Somewhere else there is a boy sitting in

On the edge of his bed in his college dorm

A boy who did not have the energy to leave his bed this morning

The only thing he did have energy for was to pour himself

A bowl of cheerios and go back to sleep alongside the

Company of soggy cereal, until he will back to bed.

Hours later, the boy will get energy to grab his phone

And he will pour his dimming light

out and into a text message to a girl in a place a few state lines away

He will press send on his virtual parchment love letter

Minutes later he will get a response that reads

you are so nice

But you are two years too late.

Does it scare you

that there are things you cannot unread

Words you will speak outloud

words you cannot unsay

Somewhere there is a little boy

He will receive an envelope

from his grandmother  a few state lines away

He has not seen her in sometime

In this envelope there will be a check

with letters and numbers on it— many zeros—

His father will make a big deal of the zeros

it will not mean much to him

There will be a card with a drawing of a bear and balloons on the cover

and his grandmotherÕs shaky handwriting will be on the inside

it will read happy birthday to the most handsome grandson in the world.

The boy will say these words aloud, sounding them out slowly

and with each syllable, his mind will hear the sentence

I miss you.


© Zachary Katz


Bio:  Zachary Katz a poet and story-teller, Mental Health Counselor, psychotherapist, and educator from Staten Island, NY. For the past 2 years, he has shared his work as a performance poet at venues throughout the five boroughs of New York City. He has had work published by NYSAI Press. In the past, he has taught English within the NYC Public School system. Zachary often thinks up poems in the shower, but waits until he is dry to write them down. Zachary holds a B.A. in English Education and an M.S. Ed. in Mental Health Counseling.