Apollo, by Jean Voneman Mikhail

by Jean Voneman Mikhail

He wound his watch
its numbers omitted
numbers he knew
already anyways, enough
to imagine the face of time. By heart,
strumming songs on tenor banjo,
he would play Happy Days
Are Here Again from the film
Chasing Rainbows. Dancing in,
we’d say Daddy, go faster
but you know the strain of not
being able, not knowing enough–
the anger oh anger.
On steel strings,
the one bad middle finger
he butchered, leaving
a cleft that refused to close.
One small faraway heart
corresponds with the other
beating inside the hand
holding onto its life long pain
the day he stapled his finger
onto a paper about Morse Code
leaving a trail of blood.
My father was told
by his father Be a man, Honey
all fists and knots, a buckle
in the waiting room floor
a hand waving over the face
telling you come to your senses
you can wake up now
emptied of pain. It’s just a little
fold in the finger
under stitches pulled
like marionette strings
dragging their red Howdy Doody.
Cries from your mouth
do not seem your own.
There is a falseness never heard before.
Music pulled from under the skin
with its top hat of severed flesh
you dance to Moon Over Bourdon Street.
Disconnected, with the now dead flesh
it falls off into the sink
white with antiseptic fizz.
There were the songs
he’d have to leave behind.
But he proved them wrong
when he played again
ignoring the spot where
the metal string stuck
inside the groove.

The day he turned on
the TV, black and white
in those days, he said it’s possible
everything could go wrong but it didn’t
when Apollo 11 landed June 20, 1969,
and the pastor read Genesis,
slipping communion under
one astronaut’s tongue, he read
When I Consider thy Heavens
the works of thy fingers.
Blank bubble of a face,
Do you really believe the stories he tells?
The ones so far fetched?
My sister didn’t care about the landing.
She sang Beatles’ tunes like Get Back
as Apollo landed
on the moon’s basalt
in The Sea of Tranquility.
He points up to something
still missing. I believe
he was crying
when they touched down.

Jean Voneman Mikhail lives in Athens, Ohio and is a graduate of OU with a MA in Creative writing. Her work has appeared in Westminster Review, Riverwind and Canary Journal. She takes part in public readings such as “Women On the Line” and “Women of Appalachia.” She tries to write every day.

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