Four poems by Michael Schmeltzer

Michael Schmeltzer

Michael Schmeltzer

Michael Schmeltzer was born in Japan and eventually moved to the US. His most current book (co-authored with Meghan McClure) is “A Single Throat Opens,” a collective memoir and lyric exploration of addiction. His full-length poetry debut “Blood Song” was a Washington State Book Award Finalist in Poetry. His writing has been published in various journals such as Black Warrior Review,Water~Stone Review, and Split Lip Magazine, among others. Schmeltzer serves as President of Floating Bridge Press and is the co-founder of One Great Things, a micro-length, macro-lensed review site.

Dog Bones

My father suggested “Sooner”
as the name for the new dog

because sooner or later

she'll shit on the carpet,

and believe me

it'll be sooner.

Which (as predicted) she did
but that didn't barrier the family
from a gut punch of grief

when she jumped the fence

and dashed her athletic body

against an oncoming truck.

An ordinary day. The simple question
of where
with an even simpler response.


My father's gruff voice the bark
of an old tree.

The television's drone. A busy street.

An empty leash

hanging from the door.

More than a decade after my dog's death,
and I can't keep the claw marks
on that adolescent heart from hurting.


digs at the dirt of memory
and sniffs out old wounds

like dog bones-the deceased splinter

into ex-lovers and the one friend

who repeatedly threatened suicide
like a game of Clue:

(Chloe in the woods with a noose.)

I never believed her,
not even when she asked me

to watch her corgi
over the long weekend,
feed the dog treats

as often as it begged.

After the wake, Chloe's mother invited me
to take whatever records I wanted
because music didn't exist for her

leashed as she was to that absence.

She made a late lunch, and I made
an awkward excuse to leave early.
Before I left she crept to the freezer,
pulled out a beige and white lump
the size of a fist.

You know the dog gave birth?
But this one–I don't even know
what to do…

Her voice melted. I stood up
and wrapped my arms around them both.

The stiff dead thing
pressed against my chest, the cold
nibbling me.

The mother remained frozen. And then

I left.

That's what you do
when the unexpected happens.

You embrace it; you move on.   


 What about the lesbian,
the fast food fanatic nauseated now
by meat but not men?

Perched from whatever
heavenly branch she prances on,
the man-crazy, vegetarian organ donor

chirps with pure delight.
Of this I'm certain.
And the list continues:

the duet between a man
wooed by Bart‚àö‚â•k
and a boy shot in a drive-by,

clutching a violin case;
another man's tendency to giggle
or get sick after meals

linked with an anorexic gymnast.
Consider this
a form of fractions, God

dividing the public by drunk
driver/random murder
as a grateful successor receives the remainder.

When a young girl bears nightmares
vivid enough to describe her donor's killer
right down to his checkered flannels

or which hand he used to thrust the blade…
well, I guess we should read
that as the heart's sequel.

In the climax of this story,
the police apprehend the villain,
the narrative leading directly

to the deranged man's porch.
He is taken into custody
wearing those acutely described flannels.

We hope the surviving girl's story
pirouettes like a ladder of DNA
until it finds the pastel sunset

of a fairytale finale, but even the most
hopeful reader must realize
this sequel

ends the way all things end – it ends.


My Affair with Mona Lisa

Dear art collector, dear museum curator,
what superior color

restores the disgraced artist?

Let me explain how

a great shade entered my sight
and pocketed every hue.

Now I exhale my prayers
in grayscale, an orgy of roiling air.

Can you honestly tell the difference
between off white & egg white,
the sacred from the invisible?

The vacuum of a blank canvas

suffocates us.

These nights I press the palette
knife against my throat. I woo whatever
paint-by-number nature scene
manages to inspire me.

And still

these fingers ache
for her arcs, become brushes caressing

the contours of negative space.

My arms remember lifting her
petite frame, and years later I love only her

visage. But still I keep painting
as if stains hold me together, as if another
masterpiece waits around the corner,

mouth ready to tease
with that small, mysterious smile.



for Inga Ingénue

Who watches burlesque for the dancer's technique

and not the revelation of body, the slow release
of garter belts and velvet gloves?

Every flexed muscle graceful
in its tension and sheen. Nearly naked,

the performer I know
only by a stage name remains
a mystery, moving

as if mercury and glitter

birthed her.

In the opera hall I gawk at the vibrating throat
of a soprano singing in Italian.

I look toward the singer's left ear, wonder if she hears
echoes of her own tune

as if a ghost returned each piece
of music in its mouth. What terror

to know the voice and its doppelganger;
it is a sort of faith

to believe one exists without the other.

Think of arias pitched against silence.
Think of flesh veiling the true flesh.
Think of the verses we haven't written yet

hidden like the bones of Nijinsky's feet
which the medical examiner cut open
in hopes of exposing something miraculous

to explain the miraculous,
as though the dancer's demolishment
would reveal everything about movement

and nothing

about paralysis.