Cutaneous by Nicole Michaels

Old woman in a cool green sweater,
lying like a tissue paper frog on her bed.

Her head is a pond, too deep and long gone,
infrequent visitors leave wax

flowers at its crumbling banks.
Why shouldn’t she refuse

the social calendar charting October activities,
with its fiery hues and cartoon pumpkins,

fanning turkeys and buckled hats. All month
she’ll take her coffee in her room,

covering the cup with a napkin,
cradling herself between sips,

hands grasping the pads of her own elbows.
During breathing treatments she’ll slip

her face into the mask,
stare at the bubbler on the wall,

as a mist grows
and settles around the room,

until there is croaking and she
breathes through her skin –

 

 

Nicole Michaels is a Marin County, CA native who makes her home in frontier Wyoming. She is a working poet with a degree in English from Stanford University where she studied under the late Diane Middlebrook and chose an emphasis in feminist studies. She spent some time in the American South as a journalist for small papers.

After Bukowski by Nicole Michaels

People die of the dumbest things.
They slip and fall,
they get TB and wreck
cars. They choke on ramen noodles,
and succumb to allergic reactions to bees and wheat,
blow up their junk with firecrackers.
Ever had an aneurysm while shopping for oranges?
Somebody has.
We love,
we drown in waterfalls,
heads upturned like turkeys.

 

 

Nicole Michaels is a Marin County, CA native who makes her home in frontier Wyoming. She is a working poet with a degree in English from Stanford University where she studied under the late Diane Middlebrook and chose an emphasis in feminist studies. She spent some time in the American South as a journalist for small papers.

 

Detail, photo by GFreihalter, of Charles Bukowski, Graffiti, Rue d’Alsace im 10. Arrondissement von Paris

Living in the Woods with Mom, 1970 by Nicole Michaels

You are wearing an un-tucked white blouse over slacks and drinking jug wine.
Something on the stove not a curry – those came later – smells divine

and you are letting me help cut the root vegetables, steadying my hand
on the mascara-black handle of a knife while I stand on a stool.

The stool is painted to look like a mushroom, and I am barefooted
and on tip toe like a visitor from a damp kingdom of ferns and morels.

The day before, you were ironing in front of TV with a poor signal,
first the body, then the sleeves, careful not to singe the buttons.

Your dark hair was pulled up, pin curls made with spit and bobby pins
to hide your ears as if they were pointed and would give you away.

Your eyes were the color of moss in indirect light
and the thick charcoal of the times lined your lids, turning up at the corners.

Not everyone’s mom looked so mysterious doing the housework.
Not every house had a feral daughter, pockets filled with shade flowers

and gem stones. My scabbard caught in the door as I came in to wash up,
my leather armor smelling of fresh battle with dragons.

Only a silver pleat of antenna separated us while you picked up another shirt,
and maybe a little mist as you pressed down.

 

 

Nicole Michaels is a Marin County, CA native who makes her home in frontier Wyoming. She is a working poet with a degree in English from Stanford University where she studied under the late Diane Middlebrook and chose an emphasis in feminist studies. She spent some time in the American South as a journalist for small papers.

 

 

Photograph The Winter House at Forest Lodge by Beverkd.

Teach Your Dog to Tango by Nicole Michaels

Use a different glass every time
as you drain, alone, a bottle of wine,
and leave each vessel on the counter unwashed.
It will look like you threw a party.

Exit an empty house listening to music.
The spines of cellos will stand up in your absence,
a saxophone has stretched out on the couch.
A swaying gown has challenged a curtain to a duel.
No telling what you’ll come home to.

Shop a thrift store for T-shirts that lay
claim to many adventures:
Marathons, fundraisers, exotic vacations.
Causes and out of the way bars.
Wear them all and lie when asked.

Test drive cars you can’t afford and tell the salesman
one of your boyfriends will stop by to close the deal.
Tell him to be discreet:
You are not sure which one it will be,
and you don’t want a scene.
Leave him guessing. Leave your card.
Watch him press his nose against the car window like a puppy.

You are unforgettable.

Go around in too much perfume and too much rouge
from the testers at department stores. Buy nothing.
Wear a long dark coat and dark glasses and walk
with a purpose; people will mistake you
for a celebrity they can’t quite place.

Be your own hope chest. Buy yourself a promise ring.

Whatever you do,
forget the brave face.
Cry all you like – you are done
throwing things
and tears are just the ghosts
of all you dry-eyed broke against the walls –
there’s a river in you –

but remember to also dance barefoot on the carpet
and slide in your socks on tile floors.
Teach your dog to tango as the water rises.

57373cefccb46eed21fd89bd5e17e9a7--just-dance-dance-dance-dance

 

 

Nicole Michaels is a Marin County, CA native who makes her home in frontier Wyoming. She is a working poet with a degree in English from Stanford University where she studied under the late Diane Middlebrook and chose an emphasis in feminist studies. She spent some time in the American South as a journalist for small papers.

 

Soapstone Figure by Nicole Michaels

If her wrists ache, forgive her:
They are freshly chiseled.

If her head rings, maybe it’s the hammer
somebody just laid down.

Others are quick to admire
her newly gaunt shape,

her willowy thighs,
the slope of her nape.

But her waist stings from the rasp,
and it appears she will forever be naked,

no hint of clothing in the scheme,
bare toes clasping a block,

that remnant of her soapy seam.
The sessions are long, and when she’s

left alone under a drape,
she recalls a coppery darkness,

the scrape of shifting plates,
the song of gems, and how she wept with aquifers.

Now her arms seem to be reaching
up for something – she worries

they haven’t finished her face –
wants a good nose –

She believes they will send
birds to perch on her shoulders.

She believes her hands will become bowls.

 

 

Nicole Michaels is a Marin County, CA native who makes her home in frontier Wyoming. She is a working poet with a degree in English from Stanford University where she studied under the late Diane Middlebrook and chose an emphasis in feminist studies. She spent some time in the American South as a journalist for small papers.

 

Nymph with a Scorpion, Lorenzo Bartolini, 1845.