Poems by Michael Sickler


To an insomniac
the solitary notes of birdsongs’
tumbling trill into bleary half-light
is a crying sister
carried off to a convent.

Sleep is a wishbone:
clothes that won’t fit,
a one-way mirror,
a cat sucking at the breath of dreams.

Insomniacs know
there is something loathsome about night,
that Roman Fever of muffler disease,
the pitched tinny buzzing malaria
of self-examination done only when sleepwalking.

An insomniac
wants to catch a train,
hears its clacking echo on the tunnel wall,
feels the gust of electric wind blister the eyes,
watches cars of faces move past the platform
toward the city of sunlight.

Der Schlag

Carrying the newspaper downstairs
the railing is loosened. Clacks its teeth.
One arm slides down a black hole
a broken nightlight.

Somewhere in the Oceans’ Blue Light
of movie print
Leni Reifenstahl is dancing numb underwater
a one hundred year spark fizzing
diving like the german word for stroke.

My mother calls me in a trance
over and over
says she cannot see. Her stroke a spell.
Her eye is broken.
Over her face
the arm she used to part
her black hair is gray.
Words trip to broken hips and
she wants it to be over.

Flowing from the Eyes

There is no steam
of exiled breath.
Across the street,

where winter has seized up,
the blanket that covers her
is a mountain.

Some woman steadies her head
on pillows of snow.
Somewhere, I think, in Moscow,

an old horse has fallen.
Starlings, three circles, clouds of breath
fall turning in silent unison.

Men in yardcoats poke with sticks
the belly of an engine
that gives them no answer.

A husband heaves with fear,
stands guard outside a trailer
torn apart by the wind of barking dogs.

The street flowing from its eyes…
we, all of us, pull something..
Each of us is something of a horse. *

*Excerpted from V. Mayakovsky’s
“Good Treatment for Horses”


Each street a canal,
each door a lock,
as monks watch
from windows shuddering,
fearing the river’s broom.

Shops swept clean of chairs,
chests and tables,
legs upturned,
bobbing like bloated corpses.
Ceramic vases, little putti faces
desperate to keep from swallowing
water all carried downstream,
the land reclaiming its wood and clay

As if the cities’ artisans had sinned
in painting their own expulsion
and needed baptism.

Heaving Ponte Vecchio
feels the snake-bellied
Arno flex. Green and white
Santa Maria Novello is anointed
in a perfume of wet silt,
while wooden magdalens
with hand bridges
pray waters quiet,
singing Aves
to keep Michelangelo’s damp bones
from floating away.

All poems featured in The Comstock Review (2002-2005)