by Lincoln Michel
This will only hurt a bit
says the doctor as he slides the needle into the arm
of a little boy who stares out the window,
wondering how, with the million worms chewing
through the dirt, the earth does not collapse
softly upon itself. The doctor strikes the pump, sending
the contents throbbing through the little tunnels of his skin
like overloaded train cars, spilling chunks of coal,
rattling and screaming past her bedroom as I
trace her body with my fingernail before plugging
corks into the last of my wounds. That was the summer
we woke at dawn, aching and confused,
the summer we strapped ourselves to the backs
of grazing trains and watched the clouds pulse
like toothaches. An entire life can be spent like that
and still the mountains will melt in August
and press their way through the frost in June.
I think sometimes if I gripped someone's love firmly enough
it would spool off onto the floor like the insides of a bee.
Everyone needs a hobby. Everyone needs something shiny
to collect from the rubble. These hollow spaces,
lungs, caverns, confuse me. I do not understand anything
that I can not fit into the palm of my hand, anything I can't
stack onto a paper boat and send down stream.
I think we could start over. Take turns carving moats
into the floorboards. "I love you," she says, as I reach
down her throat and pull out a crow. "I love you,"
I try to say, but a dozen wet moths fall gently out of
my mouth. Consider this: at any moment a wind
that broke from a hurricane and sped across the desert floor
can flutter into this room and die without a sound.
if a bird
if a bird forgets to sing
its throat shrivels
into a piece of string
its belly now
a ball of twine
if you find one
you may tie it three times
around my finger
so that you are never lost
The First Mistake
The first mistake occurs when
you say, I love you and I reply, oh,
I thought you were going to say you had an STD.
At first we barely notice the crack in the wall
until swarms of Visigoths squeeze through.
Sure, they plunder, but it is a plundering
of our circadian rhythms. Now we wake up not
covered in sweat, but in butterfly wings.
In the courtyard, Visigoths head-butt
as the black trees turn green then
black again. Where is our king?
Henry the something or other, out plucking
the heads from his new brides.
A clanking of steins and blackbirds
scatter in a shotgun blast. Remarkable.
How the broadsword you press to my throat
looks identical to my own. There is nothing
now we can erase. All has been set in type.
All gathers dust in some such vault.
The moat frogs swim in circles; they know
nothing else. You will have to come up
for air sometime. Please, affix the blue wire
to your left temple. There are only a few
questions to ask. Which blob best represents
your inner-most desire? Is it too late to try
again? Why did you plant this sunflower
directly into my throat?
Lincoln Michel is a young writer whose work has appeared in journals such as The Mississippi Review, McSweeneys.net, Quick Fiction and Pindeldyboz. He is currently completing an MFA at Columbia University and maintains an infrequently updated lit blog at http://lincolnmm.blogspot.com/.