American Cliché

American Cliché

by Seth Michelson

His body skinny but for the horns
of cancer bulging from his chest
like thorns jutting from the trunk
of this older man, a lifelong rose-
lover. So he waters and whispers to them
each morning, his broken body
bent to the earth, joyful duty, as it blooms
into pink white red fireworks.
After cooing to them, he jumps
into his golden cage, motors to work,
beep-beep!, a two-hour commute
he keeps to religiously. He has to
or he’ll forfeit: the job,
health insurance, chemotherapy,
yet he leaves for work happy,
sun-lit from within, the silent prayer
of roses lingering on his lips,
a sweet perfume, smear of nectar
on the hummingbird’s miraculous beak-tip.
Like this he smiles, stuck
in traffic, engines and neighbors overheating,
while he hopes, quietly, for his roses
to be consumed: for a deer or three
to descend the hills, drift
into his backyard, trampling
its false limits with soft hooves
as, noses down, they collect fallen petals,
each a miniature silken feast, communion
wafers on famished tongues: a god
dissolving into mouths
hungry to taste and see that the earth is good,
even strewn as it is with shards, with
shattered beauty everywhere.


Seth Michelson is the author of the chapbooks Maestro of Brutal Splendor (Jeanne Duval Editions, 2005), Kaddish for My Unborn Son (Pudding House Publications, 2009), and House in a Hurricane (Big Table Publishing, 2010), and he translated Tamara Kamenszain’s internationally acclaimed book of poetry El Ghetto (Point of Contact, 2011). He currently resides in Los Angeles. The above poem is from Michelson’s collection Eyes Like Broken Windows and is reprinted here with permission of the author.

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