Apollo, by Jean Voneman Mikhail

Apollo
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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Daughter/Dragonfly, by Jean Voneman Mikhail

Daughter/Dragonfly
by Jean Voneman Mikhail

You bring your daughter to campus
on your shoulders or in a backpack.
She longs for travel, her eyes
the color of amber from the Baltics
or from the Oak’s dead rustle of browns
that come alive at sunset, almost scarlet.
You haven’t decided if she can come yet.
She makes you a little angry.
She wants both up and down–riding,
belching the wind as she goes
scuttling over the sidewalk, nearly
tipping you with her tantrums
the hard apple of her hand
turning to mush on your neck.
The soft reflective bubble of her mouth, pouting.
She scurries over your shoulder
like a dragonfly, her iridescense–
when she turns this way
her eyes are green,
swooping green darners
seaming up a snake,
cottonmouth in the grass
that warm November
with the yellow jackets sipping
hard cider under the trees
where you were
with the love of your life.
You love your wife but don’t love her. You know what I mean.
Your daughter pleads with you
to take her to water
to the Lake or the Bay.
It doesn’t matter.
The light this way makes her blue, the sapphire
in candlelight we sometimes see.
You say, get down, your weight crushes my soul.
Can you believe you used those words?
She is carried to you on a swarm
through the door like Cinderella.
Now, she is suddenly queen of the seafoam.
Her voice becomes thick with spirits
on the lips of the waves she says between sips
Unclasp the necklace
you made me, the charm of arms
around your neck.

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.

BAPTISMS, Jean Voneman Mikhail

Baptisms
by Jean Voneman Mikhail

We tried to touch quicksilver,
poured from a little jar
that dad had brought home
from somewhere. But each time
the drop moved away
from our fingers.
These were your tears, little brother,
untouched by our ideas of you.
That time we threw you
in a pond, we three girls laughed
as we held you by your pants,
always stained with earth’s marrow.
Your locks underwater moved
with all the astronauts in space.
You never cried
so we slapped you on the back,
comforting you.
Saying good boy, good boy.
Hush, now, don’t tell
.

A drawer in the hallway,
her baptismal gown waits.
She is so small, a curler
rolls from her hair, lopsided.
Her head drops, a word
on her tongue repeated.
She climbs in the drawer
so we close her in easily.
A baking heat in the house.
Dovetails swell, the notched wood
knocked in by the mallet
of a mighty hand.
The pajamas she wears
have a flowerscape, silky
from so many washes, soft
as the word “Fla.” on the back
of the box of orange blossom
perfume in her room.
She touches her wrists,
her pulse. Her mother
has shown her how to
sleep at the sound
of a closed door, meaning
darkness rolls in on roller skates
over slate, meaning sleep
over the open road of the car.
Her father’s foot on the brake
can’t keep her from flying.

Jean Voneman Mikhail attained a Masters Degree in Creative Writing from Ohio University. She lives in Athens, Ohio with her husband and three children. She has published in Riverwind, The Westminster Review, Maybesopoetry, Between the Lines reading, and recently was selected to participate in a poetry reading/art show.