Michaela A. Gabriel

Lit-Mag #37 
Myself & Others

Five Pieces

oxygen (o)
        first kiss

in memory of sean power, drowned 2004,
the first boy to kiss me

even before we get off on the third floor,
something’s lurking behind laughter,

the familiar smell of beach half-washed
down the drains. i know the hollow sound

of knuckles on lime-green wainscoting,
but not the way it sighs against my back.

lift doors close discreetly, the hall light
clicks out. inside me, tides turn. a joke

fizzles out in whispers. your hands long
to live in my hair, like wind and sand,

the murmur of waves. cracked lips meet.
you taste of a sea so different from the

cold, determined ocean that will pour
into you one irish summer. my mouth

can’t help but open. i understand the pull
of depths, the urge to dive, and dive.

one could forget that surfacing too fast,
air would cut through us like knives.


Your words shape a sequence of events:
the curve of an arm carving meat, a fork

lifted to feed a child, the warm dimple
in an unmade bed. You paint domestic

scenes with coarse strokes – a canvas
pockmarked with toys, the sweet and

bitter landscapes of ritual and love. This
is where you return after me, in these

rooms you wash away my smell. Outside
your picket fence, planks cutting into skin,

I watch you scribbling – sharpened pencil,
discarded skirt of shavings on the floor:

unfamiliar names, the flutter of a laugh,
a length of thigh beneath your hand. In my

mind, I rewrite every act, cast myself as a
window, a table, a hungry, sucking mouth.

Meet My Bucket

It’s red. Chipped around the rim. One stain looks like Tahiti. I stole the bucket on my way home from the theatre. South Pacific. Pretended it was sliding down the driveway. Extending the handle towards my right hand. I call it Bertram. Bright as a furnace. Hungry as a raven. The bucket belonged to a man. I know, because a woman would have bought lipstick in that shade of vermilion. Not an object, something more like a friend. A lifesaver. I don’t wear lipstick except to hospitals, funerals, meetings with my husband’s mistresses. Next time I might bring the bucket instead. It holds everything I put in. Snow. Sour cherries. Echoes of a metallic pulse. Failed attempts at an article discussing the relative merits of a heart. It’s not shallow. It isn’t a lizard either. Don’t you wonder what it would look like in emerald green? With polka dots? Someone else would have stolen it. I would be drinking from sober glasses when I have my Monday migraines. Not a hint of Cabernet. Shiraz. Bertram’s belly laugh suggests more than one drink before lunchtime. Trysts with wet hands, forearms. At night I hear the sound of fingernails scraping against its wall. I dream I want to get to the bottom of things. The heart of the matter. Be prepared, I hear the bucket say. For answers. More questions. A false bottom.

the loneliness of the long-distance lover

another phone call. the distance becomes
blue smoke rising from an ashtray; static

crackling like familiar songs on vinyl; the
delicate smell of mandarins. tangible and

elusive. how inadequate hands can be –
fingers slice through air as if it were mere

gas, not a tangle of unused words. and you
hold your breath, don’t ask. i hear silence

intensify, before you blurt out my name –
jack-in-a-box sick of confinement, its lid

kept shut too long. this is how you make
love to me. this is what i have learned to

mould into a dream of happiness, late at
night when sleep won’t come: your lips

on mine, your palm a perfect fit for my
pale winter cheek, an answer to every

question, and no morning without the
reward of another night. i want to be a

secret whispered in your ear, the smoke
that stings your eyes, a tear on your face.

unlearn the magic, pleads reason; my
voice says nothing. my heart beats out

whatever rhythm yours dictates, tries to
x out every single thought does not bear

your name. darling, i breathe across time
zones. darling. all my words melt into one.


I carved your name across my eyelids,
you pray for rain, I pray for blindness
– The Arcade Fire, “Crown of Love”

Dreams feed on the after-image of your
smile shivering across the canvas of my
eyelids, like sleepers seen from hurried
trains. There is no room for maybes,
they starve like undernourished flames.

Yes is a road splintering into shards as I
start walking. Doors close whenever the
sky exhales a cloud, lock with each peal
of thunder, lightning seals them shut.
My tongue couldn’t coax them open.

If the world tilted its head away from you,
began to rotate counter-clockwise every
time I mention your name, I’d surrender.
I’d look at a million faces to exorcize the
starfield of freckles, the curve of your lip.

But if No became extinct, erased from our
genes like night vision, echolocation, we’d
meet, blind, wordless, and you’d speak the
language of my limbs. We’d need no snake.
I would offer the apple, and you would eat.

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