Every Name in the Book
p o e m s
Winner of North American Review’s 2015 Hearst Prize and numerous other awards, Michael Kriesel of Wausau, WI, is a past President of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets. His poems and reviews have appeared in Alaska Quarterly, Antioch Review, Library Journal, Rattle, Right Hand Pointing, Rosebud, The Progressive, and Wisconsin People & Ideas. Books include Chasing Saturday Night: Poems about Rural Wisconsin (Marsh River Editions), Whale of Stars (haiku) (Sunnyoutside), Moths Mail the House (Sunnyoutside), and Feeding My Heart to the Wind: Selected Short Poems (Sunnyoutside). He has a B.S. in Literature from the University of the State of New York, and was a print and broadcast journalist in the U.S. Navy. He collects old comic books and works as a security guard.
Stepping off a Greyhound in Milwaukee
shouldering a sea bag full of missing social skills,
I walk away from ten years in the navy.
Ben Pierce meets me with a pint
of homemade raspberry vodka.
We hit the nearest bar and talk ourselves empty
except for the seeds in our teeth.
I fold my DD-214 into a paper boat
and flush it down the toilet,
knowing it’ll never reach the sea.
I want to draw comics.
Spend study halls perfecting
One paper cut ends everything.
A radioactive sonnet
bites me like a spider.
I become a poet,
unlike Peter Parker.
Now lavender whales
pod the sky
where spandex sailed.
Now the sky’s
full of ghosts that
need laughing at.
Paper Plates Float on a Lake
A leaf lands on my brain
like when I was nineteen,
sailor at a picnic table
halfway through a six
of Mickey’s Malt Liquor
and a box of Twinkies.
Inhaling, I can taste
the air’s lavender burn,
heart inflating until it
beats outside my chest.
Big as a duck, it loves
and loves against
the earth’s impermanence.
The Night Before My Birthday
I miss the Captain America comics
I had as a boy in my thirties.
Late summer stars freckle
night’s adamantium shield.
I miss the constellations
of your thoughts, miss
your face’s beam of light
The motel’s empty, sun
almost done going down.
A pearl limousine pulls up,
jumpsuit Elvis at the wheel.
I close my eyes.
The dead drive fast.
I Thought There'd Be a River
Petitioning the Wind
Crows tumble like shingles ripped off hell’s roof,
calling God every name in the book.
They don’t give a shit what we think.
Crows eat death and tell the truth.
Caw what isn’t popular. What doesn’t entertain.
Like pain, some things can just be said.
Petition the wind with the names of the dead.
The man who is writing
the end of the world
began like this: he sat down
in a chair beside a window,
closed his eyes and waited
for the steam to finish rising
from a cup of coffee—
pen and paper resting on
the windowsill, darkness
spreading from behind some
trees outside the window.
The trees are aquamarine.
What kind of trees they
are is unimportant.
What’s important is the way
it’s already begun: how
every night behind his eyes
a few less stars come out.
I tell myself
Tumbleweeds line the wire fence pacing the interstate,
wind pressing them in place.
I love the sunlight hot as coffee.
Even the speedometer’s orange needle pricks my heart.
Driving to Las Vegas to Get Married
She follows me into the bathroom,
afraid I’ll disappear.
When I disappear,
flocks of letters follow me across gray water.
At night the fields glow. You can read
by the light of the neat rows of bulbs
growing underground: everything
from children’s night lights
to butter-yellow vapor lamps
to Friday Night Football lights,
nova-bright and dreaming
in the dirt like baby stars.
Moths swarm the fields all summer,
powder from their wings
coating the fluorescent tubes
that sway like sugar cane or corn.
I just walk out of the Neon Toad
when this big guy grabs my shirt,
spins me around like a carnival ride
and slams me up against the bricks.
All I see is cartoon stars
but his voice cuts right through.
Lie to yourself on your own time, punk!
Then I’m on the sidewalk, sitting up.
No one’s there. It was my conscience.
Bastard finds me anywhere.
Since my teens, twin interests in spirituality and comic books have warped me. Most spiritual poems are short (comparing a cloud to God's zit, for example), while comics burst with vivid imagery, our culture's four-color throwaway art. Hence, my short poems are often both metaphysically couched and glossy with vibrating imagery.
As a form, short poems are largely ignored, dismissed, or reviled. They don't lend themselves to easy thesis-writing. Placing a different demand on the writer than other forms, short poems require a light touch, like cream puffs. They're the true American haiku. Few editors use them. They're fun to read. They should be in fortune cookies, instead of those generic fortunes. Thanks to Dale Wisely and the editors at Right Hand Pointing for being one of the few publications dedicated to short work.
And thanks to David McNamara of Sunnyoutside Press for his support of my short work over the years.
Paper Navy—Main Street Rag
Radioactive Sonnet—Right Hand Pointing
Paper Plate Floats on a Lake—2014 Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Calendar
The Night Before My Birthday—Nerve Cowboy
I Thought There’d be a River—Nerve Cowboy, Right Hand Pointing
Petitioning the Wind—Seems
The End—Shit Creek Review
Heart’s Migration—Chiron Review
Driving to Las Vegas to Get Married (as Sailor Drowning in the Desert)—Quercus Review
The End—2003 U.K. anthology Saturday Night Desperate (Ragged Raven Press).