Michael E. Woods



a bottle of bleach next to the cold coffee in the French press
one flask of water with a vodka label
fogging it knows
its own ecosystem iodized salt proclaims great value
muddy washcloth
next to a beer tab stuck to the counter top
on something like molasses one coffee mug reads Canada
with maple leaf above and it’s all gold on black glaze so it
can’t be used in the microwave the other mug reads you’re
a very special neighbor i can’t remember how that got here
the third mug i forgot to mention because now i’m holding it
has Durer’s rhinoceros in gray on white a scabby etching
that looks scaled for war drawn from a letter never seen
plate mail the point is multiple points in excess on the rhino’s
back and this is after cleaning overnight with my brother
there isn’t room for the beer in the fridge so we set it out
like organizing the bulging totes green lids see-through bodies
heavy with our father’s scattered now collected books
we leave the fridge full of pizza boxes bloated milk jugs
empty delivery leftovers for another any day now



if i could exist between the hands
in that small embrace of two people
at a business meeting or a funeral
between father-in-law and groom
i would be familiar with the pressure
would know it by the sweat
and by the knowledge that all my life
existed in a valley of coheirs
as a greeting or transaction
as a gesture between friends
who were taught to show love
only through their palms and fingers
even a fist (here flush) against
a jawline or shoulder sometimes a stomach
but most often that shake
which (if i can be honest for a second
for one goddamned second no probably not)
might be more intimate for all the
things the hands can do so much better
than mouths
some punctured some



suspicion on the train from one stop / to the next an American train / on a
German train once / the woman across from me and B thought we were
German / until we told her we weren’t / this was perhaps flattery / to no end
except kindness in a version of a haunted house centipede / the great /
murder mysteries and robberies should happen on trains not in mansions /
nor banks / the path is inevitable / unless it hits a cow or car and these things
are usually considered / replaceable parts / so all plots are resting / places
everyone can catch their breath / in the arc as it appro/aches infinity, which
is always (a) suspect for this reason / you’ll need / a good feast of an
intermission to gut out the suspense within an unstoppable train / we know
/ where it’s going / five bodies will be on the floor and at least four / will
not get up into the shuddering air of humanity again / one / of them might
be the murderer or the robber / the train allows this ambiguity / because of
its motion / the journey along curves / already drafted / allows the body to
be both / the journey here / is an American story where people use narrative
as currency / i’ve got a ten-dollar story / where my grandfather gets hit with
lightning / i’ve got another worth at least a spare / apple if you’ve got one
where / i fall in love with every person i meet / the train does not care / it
needs / to get to the station by six o’clock to be cleaned / it looks clean /
from here but many people have their shoes off / and holes in their socks

Michael E. Woods used to live with a family of raccoons in Missouri. He edits the Columbia Poetry Review and teaches at Columbia College Chicago. He received the Merrill Moore Prize for Poetry in 2015 from Vanderbilt University. Recent work appears in The Rising Phoenix Review, The New Territory, and Eclectica Magazine. Forthcoming works can be seen soon in Yes, Poetry, Solidago Journal, Truthdig, and The Nassau Review. Find him online @michaelewoods.


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