Friday 5 May 2017

5 Poems by Michael Meyerhofer


I gave up bread and strong wine,
but still I feel a strange sickness
whenever the sun gilds a new
interstate or a pasture of dark-eyed
cattle silently flipping their tails,
the poor dears, like fallen gods.

At the gym, a pretty college girl
on the elliptical looked like
she had not eaten in forty days,
ribs straining underneath
a rainbow leotard, bronze skin
stretched over bags of silicone.

I could not bear her painted eyes,
the feeling when she smiled at me
or afterwards, when I got home,
how my computer had been hijacked
by pop-ups for diet pills, offers
to add more girth to my manhood.

Later, I wonder was it ever easier
as my wife wheels out our new baby
boy from the hospital with thick
dark stitches in place of his foreskin,
joking that now, she’ll have less
to cringe over when changing him.

Dear Lord, it’s getting hard to care
that dreams burn up like paper cranes,
that my wrists ache when it hails
and I wonder what kind of terrible age
we’ve all been cast into—but no,
I think, it has always been like this.


Once, when my father was driving
through thick, rural darkness
down a ribbon of highway south of St. Paul,
a retired Clydesdale strayed
from its pasture of hay and clover,
right into the blind spot
of a teenage girl air-drying her Porsche.
My father saw the whole thing—
how the windshield broke like applause,
how a helicopter lifted her to Mayo
in a lattice of white straps.
How men had to chainsaw the horse
just to reach her. Afterwards,
the pieces shoved off
like the soggy halves of a tuna melt.
A cop with a flashlight beckoning traffic.
The horse’s hind quarters
rumping the ditch-weed, like it started
to burrow underground
then got stuck. Couldn’t back up.
Hell of a sight, my father says.
I don’t tell him I feel this way too
when I write, like a humanized ostrich
or, if you prefer, a horse’s ass
tunneling between worlds
while strangers gawk,
streaming past, honking in tongues.


I almost forgot about the stone penguin
left under my bed after the tornado,
which you gave me after my father and I
sought shelter in your storm cellar,
rappelling down a cable into the darkness.
And since this was the dream-world,
it made sense that I’d see you again, Lisa,
whom I haven’t thought about in years
and was never, I think, in love with
although in my dream, I was disarmed
by your charitable grin, waving
in your Future Farmers of America tee,
during what it took for my neural firestorm
to shock me back up to consciousness.
We were driving along Iowa back-roads
when the tornado touched down
on the barren gravel, spared us by looking,
then I saw you in the distance
and pled shelter into your storm cellar.
So you gave me a stone penguin
to remember you by, which I then kept
under my bed for reasons that made sense
at the time. I’ll also say, since readers
of poetry are either lovers or haters
of Freud, that the penguin’s bill
was erect as a cavalryman’s saber,
that I had trouble rappelling down your cellar
which was, in turns out, a swamped pit,
that your ex-marine father did not approve
but your mother found me charming,
and that you—that girl I’d forgotten
until I dreamt about her—chose another.


If I could go back, I’d warn God
how long he’d have to spend flushing
the white nostrils of stars,
powdering the bottoms of nebulae,
burping galaxies like bean-spit
down his own clean, blank bib. Really,
how could any omniscient
understand, before black holes,
what a bright, sorry mess he’d made?

You’ve seen the pattern—
first, spangles spread like field grain,
then galaxies spun by the bushel
until one day, they'll find out
even universes bloom on stalks.
Even radiation can, incomitatus,
yield matter at ten trillion Kelvin.

I am tired of living as a solid.
I want to be water again. Without facade,
able by sheer force of will
to seep from this tarnished bassinet,
these bones like walking sticks.

Pablo Neruda was weary of chickens,
but I am weary of prophets,
metaphysicians in their lab coats.
We are fooling ourselves,
all of us, if we believe
better divinity couldn’t exist right here,
right now, at room temperature.


It was a ninety minute drive to work
the summer after my mother died.
I rose at five upon the third snooze strike
to shower where her heart burst—
same room, same hour—minus the sound
of water pattering a gray wash rag.

My job was to test for faulty seals
on factory-made ice machines,
my only tool a set of cracked water hoses,
my station on the line slightly lowered
so that I more or less worked
in a breeding hole for mosquitoes.

I rose even before my father did,
the house still midnight blue,
the coffee still dry in its dark cupboard.
Sydney, our friendly mop of a cat,
had been dirt-blossom for years,
our stairwell shadows just shadows.

This was long before poetry.
I wore a kind of hymen on my sleeve,
mouthing the names of beautiful women
who understandably wanted
nothing to do with my tape deck,
its loose wiring to two busted speakers.

I drove east with my time card,
a dry shirt, my dreams and copper tithe
for the factory’s vending machines.
I’d stopped believing in God,
but not the myth of Eden. For that,
I still drive headlong into the burning sky.


Michael Meyerhofer’s fourth book, What To Do If You're Buried Alive, was published by Split Lip Press. He is also the author of a fantasy series and the Poetry Editor of Atticus Review. His work has appeared in Hayden's Ferry, Rattle, Brevity, Tupelo Quarterly, Ploughshares, and many other journals. For more information and an embarrassing childhood photo, visit

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