3 Poems by Kelly Michael


A Poem for Elizabeth Bishop and Frank O’Hara

There it is! science! when did we become
so scientific? do you remember that one night
that you and Marcia and Emily and I discussed
virginity on your front porch heavy under
the haze of summer and three glasses of wine in?

I bled my first time
I didn’t know what I was doing Marcia said
and it was discussed why we call it
losing
and Emily insisted that it was because
she lost it to an older man to which
you replied At least he knew what he
was doing and she said
but I still bled

I lost it in a bathroom when I was fifteen
and you said in a field to a boy who smoked
a cigarette while he entered you
and the field ran its fingers up your thighs
and you bled too
on the grass

now though! you stand on the edge
of a textbook looking over it like a cliff
communicating fear and shouting at me
Women were born to bleed!
and not only women bleed
but they were born to
their pomegranate gift is the impetus
of their own limbs and all the spiralling
arms of the galaxy

so I lay and pour my salt
into the workout bench
I push the world up and away
as the implications of my blood
and birthright whisper in my left ear
saying you do not escape this
as it was decided two years ago
upon my father’s grave
twelve years ago upon his flight
across the country
near twenty-one years ago
upon my own grave
the day I was born

I don’t wipe up anything
I fell asleep in a man’s arms weeks
upon weeks upon weeks ago
with two solemn oaths
and seals dried upon our bellies
and this was Piscean
this was anatomically correct and crossing
a threshold between sentimentality
and dangerously unrealistic romance
this was a coming out

not only women bleed.
_______________________________________________________

Lincoln Continental: or, All the Kings Men

Sometimes when we fall asleep
beside each other I pretend
we aren’t two gay men
I pretend we can hold hands
through the rougher parts of town
I pretend the time between us
isn’t two years plus ten

Sometimes when we fall asleep
beside each other I pretend
I am John F. Kennedy and you
you are Jackie O. my brains
leak out onto the sheets
from a hole in my head and you
in pearls white gloves and stainable pink
gather me all up
and when you roll over half-awake
and half-asleep to hold me you hold nothing
but my insides
in
_______________________________________________________

America, 1942

I.

The cauterized lip of your
wound brushes my hip
bone stretching skin so taut
I worry I might reopen you
but this is dumfounded
by your lips overlapping my tongue
overlapping your lips

the bag of sugar we had hoarded
in the slit between mattresses
crunches beneath us
an unsteady rhythm

II.

I watch your brother’s head
bob up and down the trail
weaving through trees on horseback
I die once when I see him
I die twice when I see you
slumped over the rump of his
horse like a heavy blanket
I am paralyzed when I think
what he already knows
and paralyzed again when I realize
what he will find out
I stand there fist clenched
tight in the air near my throat
motionless as though I’m choking
on the sweetest sugar cube
lumped in my throat
as though I’m savouring it

III.

He accidently shot you
it rang out and even the coyotes
knew something worse had happened
than one of their own being flayed
birds stopped
so did water

Your brother cut open your bloody shirt
and with his jackknife cut open your bloody you
and fingered your gape like a man
unbarbing a hook from a fish’s bloody
gasping mouth and rough lips
he pinches the deadly pebble
and lets it drop heavy and bloody to the leaves
before popping one of his shotgun canisters
and emptying the stinging black powder
inside you
This will hurt he braces you
and it burns worse than sugar

IV.

Inside the den you lay huddled
in furs and all shades shivering
you are a farmer and you are not at war
because you have a dead family
they think is still alive
I am a runaway city boy and I am not at war
because I am in love with you
even under all those insulating hides
barely there and pale and sweaty
I want to touch you
but I don’t because your brother says
He’s not hurt but
who are you? and I say I am
Daniel but I don’t say the A
because I know just below
that bloody fingerprint your brother left
on your abdomen is the tattoo D.A.
boldly visible even against the blood

V.

After
tired and droopy even after
the springs have fallen back to sleep
you lay belly to my back and
I feel it breathing warmly
that wound huffing on my backside
opening and closing in a million
tiny cracks along the rough burn scab
languorously humid breath
reminding me of its intent to scar
a pink worm of truth burrowed
just above the imprint of my initials
assuring that afternoon
will be with us forever

I sigh and roll over onto my own
belly face in the pillow and slip
my finger into the mattress
I poke it into the rough hole
in the burlap sack and withdraw it
sparkling white I let it gleam all a moment
before swallowing it whole
to taste that sweet sweet dissolving sweetness

_______________________________________________________

Kelly Michael is a writer from Hamilton, Ontario. He is pursuing a B.A. in sociology at the University of Toronto. The revolution is his boyfriend, but his favourite novel is Of Human Bondage.