Michael Gushue



Today a wave of sadness hit me
and that was so cool it was like
my sadness was the new black.
I had this aura, maybe because you
were having a good day--sun,
lunch at Chez Panisse, a tax refund,
the guy/girl who smiled right into you.
Your good day was an elevator taking
me to the 32nd floor of my sadness--
looking down, I see you walking as my
being sad lounges in its smoking jacket.
My being sad today was tops and
I want you to have the groovy credit.
All it needs now to give it legs
is if you see me and get a little itch,
a small twinge of envy. I would take
that and smear it on like cold cream.
I'd zip up the wet suit of your envy,
dive into the icy straits of sadness,
I'd swim, pull my long sad strokes through
your blue sea, leave you in my sad little wake.



On the couch I lifted your shirt, kissed
the coral star waiting there, not knowing
I would not see you again, that memory
is bruised by the heavy rowing of time,

and regret never lets go. A dense sun,
under pressure, shatters, throwing dust
across unimaginable distance,
a shell of splinters falling in all directions.

On your front steps that night, the grass wet,
dark--overhead were the tattered remnants
of a cataclysm--the Little Ghost
Nebula--almost too faint to be seen,

because life is made of camphor--
it burns and leaves nothing behind,
the things we can't reach, fading
as they drift, filaments, wisp-like.

I don't know if they tie us together.
I don't know what refuge there is, or if
all comfort arrives too late. But I think
rust is not the slowest fire and every
word is a bullet of vibration and
music can swim toward us, weeping:

though I can't say any of this to you. So:
isn't it haunting how a flower or a life
is an explosion stretched thinly over time.

Aimee Jackson
Set of Saucers

oil on canvas; (3) 8" x 9"; 1992
see more work by Aimee Jackson




Hermaphroditic flatworms look on sex
as a chance for a free lunch, the redback
spider over there wants to be eaten.
When a male wren approaches a female
he holds a yellow petal in his beak.
When I approach you vases suddenly
crowd the room, the water speaks French.
A male stickleback lets his sperm
rain down slowly over the eggs
thanks a lot. Each of us is an aquarium
filled with seawater. A male bedbug uses
another male as a vector for his seed and
I don't have any friends that close,
but we all have this fuse inside us--
there are moments you wish only to burn.
Our room holds leaves of soapstone--sea-colored--
and so smooth to the touch they want
to be rubbed until they burst into flame.




Too many cooks spill the beans.
A watched pot makes light work.
All road justify their means.
Every dog is an open book.
Everybody talks about Rome,
but nobody counts your chickens.
That man's father is white with foam,
but a boy's best friend is among the wicked.
The best medicine makes Jack a dull boy,
but a stitch in your mother is only skin deep.
What goes around tomorrow is another day,
so a nod is as good as a fox while the hay sleeps.
If the tunnel's end is a Greek bearing your gift horse to water,
it's every man for himself who lends the devil his first quarter.




What is incomprehensible about
the world is that we comprehend it--

the way the moon swings around us
as it spirals in, the way we long for

gruyere's twist on our tongue.
If a man in a restaurant curls

a woman's finger into his mouth,
while another circles a public square

staining the day with his cries, then
a question can open up like a drain.

And if your life never said "surprise!"
you'd be as unchangeable as a coin

in the air, heads and tails both right.
If we had whirl enough and truth

were top, this dizziness, Lady, were no lie.
If thy coy mistress causes weather

systems in the Northern hemisphere
to spin clockwise but widdershins

in the Southern, then in what trailer
park does thy love tornado thee?

The way a spear of lavender raises itself
to the black coil of a fritillary's tongue,

the way bugs drill the air with their song,
then in winter your wet hair freezes.

Hand out the car window, feel the wind's
sleek pelt bucking against your palm.



Michael Gushue's work has appeared in the Indiana Review, American Letters & Commentary, Cream City Review, and Redivider among other places, and is forthcoming in e (the Emily Dickinson Award Anthology) and the Germ.  His work was nominated for a Pushcart Prize 2003. He is co-coordinator for the Brookland Poetry Series, poetry editor for the Washington Spark, works in international development and lives in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington, D.C. with his wife and five children.

Published in Volume 6, Number 4, Fall 2005.


To read more by this author:
Michael Gushue: DC Places Issue
Michael Gushue: Audio Issue
Michael's Addictions
Michael Gushue on Anthony Hecht: US Poets Laureate Issue