Michael Waters



Spring: your mother ammonias soiled windows,
Each chamois gesture returning to glass
A certain beauty always there, but less
Obvious before this moment, the light

After seven days’ rain casting judgment

Upon all things with odd clarity: dust
Flared to meaning, your body enraptured
By the hour’s whispered solicitations.
Your flown soul burnt blue will never be missed:

The glass so clean it no longer exists.




Among “countries that are counterfeits of Death,”
Baudelaire in 1846 could not foresee Belarus
Where throats festooned with red crescent scars
Grin across schoolrooms and orphanage wards.

Even an aesthete like Gerard de Nerval
Who leashed his lobster for a stroll to the opera
Could not divine this couture of the doomed—
Post-op jewelry where butterfly-shaped

Thyroids blackened, then bloomed.




Not ghost horse, fever-dream horse, horse inked on silken fog
Setting off once more the neighbor’s neurotic bulldog,

Nor the wan roan of the brief, elliptical lyric
Looping infinities in our pre-dawn cul-de-sac,

But mudwall of muscle in the bicycle’s headlamp
And that sulfurous stench stuttered from the twitching rump…

The queer horse looms unbridled amid scarred sycamore.
Straddle her: let thighs clench ribs.
                                                                 Or girdle only air.




Blunt nubbins birthed on dainties
Whiffled into your drawer,

The mice pulsated pinkly,
Transparent, six erasers

Lacking graphite to lend them
Purpose, so I swaddled them

In the silk sling of one thong,
Black eye-beads absorbing

The wince-sharp blast of sky
Out of which wings gyred

As I fluttered the tribe onto stubble,
Six micey nougats, six snouty baubles,

Babes whisked by beaks
To raucous treetop nurseries.

For how many hours did my shadow
Needle our garden, startled

By first knowledge of our fate?—
To be driven naked and ashamed

Beyond the unlatched gate.


MICHAEL WATERS‘ books include Selected Poems (2012), Gospel Night (2011), Darling Vulgarity (2006 — finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize), and Parthenopi: New and Selected Poems (2001 — finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize) from BOA Editions, as well as Selected Poems (2011) from Shoestring Press, UK. He is co-editor of Contemporary American Poetry (Houghton Mifflin, 2006) and Perfect in Their Art: Poems on Boxing from Homer to Ali (Southern Illinois UP, 2003). He teaches at Monmouth University and in the Drew University MFA Program in Poetry and Poetry in Translation.


Read more of Michael Waters’ work:

Poetry Foundation
Interview with Michael Waters