Her Tattoo as a Book of Light

BY Jory M. Mickelson

The half turned blinds cast shadows across her eyes—darkened, her voice rises and falls against the noise of the bar. The strongest men swim to the bottom of the river and drag waterlogged burlap sacks to shore. One of them will be filled with coins. The women write messages and tie them to stones, sinking words against the current.  What questions do they ask? The man who drowned with his dun-colored horse fell faster than night or stones or light from the road into the river’s mud and stuck; the horses legs kick like rushes.  Floating away are packets of seeds, pages of a book and one white scarf with blue flowers stitched in. A gold watch chain flashes and vanishes. A page being eaten by water asks what is ruin? then answers I will. I will.

Torch Song: She Didn’t Start the Fire

Uncertain at two a.m., I grind the soles of my tired shoes against the grime green carpet. A stakeout with magazines spread out on the table.  Their glossy pages distort and halo the overhead lights, turning my head left and right erases or restores the singer’s faces. Nighthawks at a Denny’s. Lady Gaga keeps changing disguises:  Lady Gaga with huge sunglasses, Lady Gaga in an improbably blonde wig and once the fake crime scene, her hanging from the ceiling smeared with blood.  It wasn’t Lady Gaga the tabloid showed, but the pencil-eye browed Evelyn Knight. How I listened to her and longed until she did what she did.

Portrait of a Faceless Victim

The man without a pulse wakes up in a wingback. He drops the old-fashioned glass that shows a cloudy ring. You ought to be the woman from the painting. Reflected faces in a windowpane. Scotch neat. Earlier (but after this) the man felt poison thread its way along his veins like ivy. A phone rings in the distance. Scissors cut out the anonymous shape of a girl from newspaper. The hemline of her dress reads…has been missing for three days… The curl of her hair says: why I outta.

Sending You a Letter I Wrote While Drinking

I do not know if you’ll get this (in time). But what hasn’t been held in Chronos’ hand. Sand. An hour lasts longer on the page when I write you from the bottom of a bottle. Lights through the thick green glass.  Lights curling on the folded water of the bay. A ship shaped hole eats the skyline. I am hoping you receive this from the postman’s hand. His blue jacket is newly ironed and zipped against the fog. The hem on the legs of his blue pants are wet from your next-door-neighbor’s lawn. You wait to tear the envelope open until you hear the slap of the gate when letter carrier leaves.


Jory M. Mickelson is pursuing and MFA in poetry at the University of Idaho. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Oranges & Sardines, Psychic Meatloaf, Knockout, New Mexico Poetry Review and Gertrude. He maintains the writing blog Literary Magpie and is the nonfiction editor of the literary magazine 5x5.