Currently the poetry editor of Rosebud magazine, Michael Kriesel of Wausau, WI, is a past President of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets. Winner of North American Review’s Hearst Prize and numerous other awards, his poems and reviews have appeared in Alaska Quarterly, Antioch Review, Library Journal, Rattle, Right Hand Pointing, The Progressive, and Wisconsin People & Ideas. He has also been anthologized in New Poetry from the Midwest 2017. Books include Every Name in the Book by Right Hand Pointing and Zen Amen: abecedarians, by Pebblebrook Press. 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.
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
First appeared in Nerve Cowboy
As Crickets Chip Away the Light
I quit the news, turning my back on the world
except for the weather robot on the radio:
chrome manikin sitting all day, all night
at a gray metal desk in a white broadcast booth
reading the page of our future over and over
into an old microphone big as a silver cucumber.
His monotone of highs and lows soothes me.
He’s always there doing his job, not beating his
platinum wife or confessing some sordid affair
with an orange Cuisinart to the priest
who listened to our hearts for fifty years.
People don’t want to grow up he confessed,
when asked what he learned in that dim cubicle.
I lotus too long on the floor and my foot falls asleep.
A frost advisory follows me into the kitchen.
I hop on one leg. This could have been heaven,
except for humans over-farming Eden’s fertile plains.
There’s always some Solomon cutting down Lebanon’s cedars,
building a house for a God who moves on.
It’s getting dark. I snag a beer and stumble out.
Crickets chip away the light, drowning out
the droning voice in the house behind me.
Squatting on the steps, I watch a line
of fireflies stream the interstate,
remembering a firefight a friend confessed,
a navy buddy. We were drinking Mad Dog 20/20
when he told me how the tracers in
the river’s mirror were an eerie beauty.
I press the sweaty can against my neck
and stare at a cattail’s frozen explosion.
We’re more than just a tribe of monkeys
writing angry haiku. It matters, what we do.
First appeared in Rattle
Captaining a mower on a soccer field’s green sea,
I leave a twelve-foot swath of sculpted sward behind me,
like writing my name in ammonia,
signing a fresh sheet of snow as a boy.
Same as God’s signature under a clover in Eden’s least corner,
small as a rabbit’s pink bead of an eye.
The scoreboard blank above me as a teacher’s summer calendar.
How I spent my summer: going blind while circling
a baseball field three times a week, harvesting myself.
Underground sprinklers rise each night to resurrect the grass.
One eye already blurry, I become my soul’s meat-puppet.
Cut-rate harvest king. One-eyed kings are wild in cards.
I won the eyeball lottery. The VA gave me eye drops
and a magnet with a toll-free number on it.
Floaters swarm like noseeums against blue emptiness.
I hear the buzz of atoms big as bees behind the sky’s wallpaper.
At least glaucoma’s treatable, although what light I’ve lost is gone
and over time my eyes will fall from blue to loam brown,
a side effect, along with longer, thicker lashes.
I go back to writing poems and eating ice cream cones,
living in the land of May Cause Drowsiness.
Beats shopping for a bottle and a gun.
I could live with one eye. Just no eye patch.
Like Jerry Seinfeld, I don’t want to be a pirate.
Odin sacrificed an eye for wisdom, swapping sight for vision.
Maybe the wisdom’s in sacrifice. Maybe I’ll get ravens, like Odin.
Instead of thought and memory, Hugin and Munin,
I’ll name mine Heckle and Jeckle, past and future
perching on my shoulders while I mow a JV softball field.
Toward the end of my grandfather’s life I came over
Saturdays to mow. He had a pair of John Deere riders,
both of us working our way from the road to the barn
while the silo’s shadow fell across the lawn.
Later, we’d have a few beers in the kitchen.
I’d listen to him reinvent his life: I could’ve been an auctioneer …
but the cows were always there, needing to be milked.
Now it’s my turn to remember he made nineteen cents an hour
canning string beans in a factory in Tigerton, Wisconsin.
Like driving a tractor, I loop at the end of each row.
A crow hauls ass. Craning my neck to follow its path
my blind spot gets in the way, and for a few seconds
that section of sky is bleached. I rub my eyes and see
my soul’s albino crow, and for a while attain salvation.
First appeared in Verse Wisconsin
Draft Bramble: Spring 2017 Issue here.