Death Benefits Your father’s second left foot was three toes short when he shuffled next to you on wedding night parquet. He prayed for months elevating an ankle to drain that swelling to fit the patent leather oxfords. Time before we knew that remission means victory, impermanent. When he died in our home we kept three pairs of hospital socks, a folding commode, and a crate of vacuum bottles that drained that choking pleural effusion from his lungs. I mostly dance with her now, practicing for some future father-daughter dance, but I’ve danced next to you at the barre in a strip mall. Before class you showed me that subungual streak under your toenail and as I plié in his hospital socks and whisper a closed-eyed prayer my legs shake against the earth as my whole body remembers those hospice dance steps with him. I lose balance again at our campsite when our daughter climbs on that bequeathed commode, reflecting our potty training smiles back at us. How soon until she flutters glutes at the barre —after I drain your fluid filled lungs from weak tea yellow to pale red gel— next to me in your hospital socks? I strum campfire bar chords for your shuffle, her sock feet planted on your old house shoes. When I talk to God, I talk to myself, and I don’t know what next we’ll carry.   Body I crawled into a muddy golem, and stained everything I touched. After my life changed the world wrapped in rayon crinkled and panned till blurry. After, my life changed there was lightning in my mind and I genuflected in book store aisles. My life changed I woke and ran after the moon only to find the sun- rise at my backdoor. Changed, after my life I leaked twenty years of midlife from a valve stem behind my ears and polished the dark stone hidden in the white box. Because the storybook characters in my life flattened next to me on the page. How could you explain why after my life? Changed the locks but we’re in the same house, body, this man of mind and meat creeps out of crucible cracks & the stories we tell ourself bend closer till they grasp hands with memories like a trapeze team. — Peter H. Michaels’ poetry is forthcoming from or has appeared in Nimrod, Glass, Poet Lore, and other places. He is a staff poetry reader for The Adroit Journal. His website is   Artwork by: Robert Collins

two poems

by Peter H. Michaels

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