by Lincoln Michel
Trials of the Lung
Sometimes you awake to the sun splashing you
with champagne, other days
people curl up like worms on the pavement.
You go to the fortune teller, but
there is too much dirt on your hands.
Messages of fear and hope blur together.
The dog will bite your arm, but the dog's teeth
will shatter like candy. Certain flowers
have been known to form delicately around a tooth.
If you pluck one for a lover the infection lasts
for weeks. I've been meaning to ask you about
all these holes in my lungs, but I can't quite
find the air. I've been meaning to start listening without
your words splintering in my ears. It is these little things
that wound; multiplying in my veins, clogging the drainage system
of my skull. The paper says there is still no hope
for killing these little things and yet
every morning you press a warm coal through my chest.
the last thing you see before you
close the door
gobble the sun
a light rain
is not your child
but is so blindly beautiful
that you forget by dawn
often you must
against life's hands
not every nugget of gold
can be found
an aristocrat scowls
before our carriage
his gold staff
the horses felled
I told you once
about the cicadas
how they only die
in millions, like Russians
this is their suffering
how you pluck their shells
from these trees
with that senseless grace
are we here
two days before the storm?
In the morning I sprinkle my mother's ashes
across the backs of rabbits.
They are snow rabbits and winter
is coming. I spend the afternoon with an ax
in my hand, splitting old wood
before the wolf appears. He is wet and bony
and clinging to the ragged coattails
of the storm. Still, the marked rabbits are
plucked easily from the sharp snow
by his white jaws. I reach for the butt
of my rifle but already the storm is opening
its legs across the sky. No,
my bullet does not sing. The wolf does not
howl. The snow does not crunch beneath
the angry heels of my father's old boots.
Lincoln Michel's work appears in Mid-American Review, Mississippi Review, McSweeneys.net, Pindeldyboz and elsewhere. He is currently completing an MFA at Columbia University and maintains an infrequently updated lit blog at http://lincolnmm.blogspot.com/