Shower of Sparks by Nicole Michaels

Shower of Sparks

“Emperor Domitian held gladiator bouts at nighttime by torchlight, sometimes pitting women against dwarfs as well as each other.” – Did Women Fight as Gladiators in Ancient Rome? —History.com

The old green Ford is giving us trouble again,
and it’s far too cold to mechanic.

There isn’t a female gladiator or a dwarf in sight,
but I am indeed holding a torch so that you have

enough light to work by. Next year,
we’ll be set up better, get the yard wired.

You are laughing and gripping a wrench
that gleams with the fire in my hand,

fire I have single-handedly wrestled there,
having torn it off the edge of the winter moon

as if the moon were a flint and I alone
had ladder enough to reach its quartz.

Truth be told,

my hand must be the wettest place on earth by now,
and still you burn in it, lighting us both like caves that

have run together,
underground streams with high walls

decorated in primitive paintings,
buffalo running, mock early representations

of our original nature,
before anyone told us it was wrong to be that way.

I sink into you a little more each day.

“She will start,” you say, victorious,

catching the snow
on the rough side of your tongue.

by Nicole Michaels

Editor’s Note: The imagery in this poem, sharp yet beautiful, skillfully emphasizes the strength of the characters and their joy in existing in this moment.

Remembering a Romanian Princess by Nicole Michaels

Remembering a Romanian Princess

My friend is summer help come to America on a work visa,
our nightly visits, something I look forward to. I am getting an education
on witches and the supernatural and on this particular
snowy night, we are closing the store, have vampires on the brain.
Rebeca makes living with vampires sound like living with a year-round
chance of snow or grizzly bears:
Wear extra layers and travel with a full tank of gas, bear spray.
Watch your six.
Rebeca has the kind of storied beauty that villains surely prize—
pale skin and willowy limbs, wide set eyes and full lips.
Espresso curls frame her face where she squeezes a mop in the bucket.
When you’re raised near the actual Transylvania,
she explains,
moving the mop to the floor, swishing,
you make room for vampires in your imagination
and also in your plans.
Use common sense,
take precautions.
Rebeca’s voice is Slavic chocolate,
melting under fluorescent lights.
The voice of a seance,
ancient woods.
So, no carriage rides late at night?
I move a chair,
upend it to a table.
Rebeca grins and her canines show.
She cuts her eyes my way.
Somewhere, a wolf howls, immortal.
Putin talks of nukes.

by Nicole Michaels

Editor’s Note: Monsters always hide in the unexpected places.

Photograph by Christine Klocek-Lim

Pin Feathers by Nicole Michaels

Pin Feathers

Your grief lives in a domed house
that you cover each night
with a fringed spread,

keeping it away from drafts.
It chirps and settles on a perch,
fluffs itself against the chill.

Mornings it bathes in a water dish,
eyes half open,
scatters seed with little enthusiasm,

grabs the bars between sandy toes,
lets go too soon,
ignores the cuttlebone, beak lengthening.

You took away the mirror
for fear it would encourage
moodiness,

leaving a small silver bell
loosely anchored
with a bread tie.

You rock the swing,
hoping to spark interest.
You read up on egg-bound

birds, start a Pinterest page,
watch as pin feathers
push to the surface,

the shafts filled with fluid,
the veins yet to expand.
Flight on the vine.

Tomorrow, you say, Tomorrow,
I will hang your cage
from a wrought iron hook

in the ceiling of a south facing porch.
I’ll trim your beak,
and teach you to speak

while the sun splashes you with lemons.

by Nicole Michaels

Editor’s Note: The extended metaphor of this poem uses detailed imagery to convey the persistence of grief and the fragility of love.