Spring 2016, Volume 20

Poetry by Michelle Boisseau

I Ate My Mate

By the time you realize how
I’ve shrunk enough that two
beetles shoulder to shoulder
in the aisles of a cabbage leaf
could give me the what-for

Iíll be aweigh on the swells
of night, galley engorged
with slurpings, but light getting
lighter becomes the weighty
nature of an old dragon lady

whose spasms slather the sky
as galaxies glide through my black
holes and I stretch to accept
each splurt of twinkling cloud.

To a Dying Difficult Man

Jonathan Boisseau (1953-2012)

I grab my regret by the scruff
and we walk the edge he doesn’t
talk about. It’s a single-track
and we stay close enough to kick

a few stones over but far enough
a sudden stumble won’t pitch us
into the echo. The distance is close.
Goodbyebyebye bounces like a bean

tossed into a box, goodbye
to a brother I didn’t know
since he was boy. It’s an old story.
One is going and one is staying on.

The one staying has time to take in
the microclimate of the place,
organisms that live by gripping.
Talons, twisted roots, stone nests.

Hold tight. But we never did.
The one staying feels the press
of the space taking the one going
through the final privacy.

Take Your Kids to the Funeral

Let them stretch out on the cool pews
and listen to the valves of the church
pump with coughs and foot scrapes.
Let them discover the pleasing weirdness

of pressing your belly against the seat edge
and swinging your legs. Let them roll
the bulletin into a telescope, stare a hole
into their hands and heal it.

The liturgy won’t hold them, but the furtive
dabbing versus sudden bursts of tears
will foster a curiosity about powers
and exponents. Rock, paper, scissors—

luck leaps in your fingers. Bring your kids
to the funeral and let us smell their heads.

 

 

 

BIO: Michelle Boisseau is the author of several previous books of poetry, including A Sunday in God-Years (2009) and Trembling Air (2003, PEN USA finalist). She is also the author of Understory (1996, winner of the Morse Prize) and Private Life (1990). Her university textbook, Writing Poems, initiated by the late Robert Wallace, is now in its eighth edition, with her colleague Hadara Bar-Nadav. Boisseau has twice been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. She teaches in the MFA program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City where she is Senior Editor of BkMk Press and Contributing Editor of New Letters.