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Fall 2001, Volume 19.1

Poetry

 

Robert S. MikkelsenPhoto of Robert S. Mikkelsen.


Robert S. Mikkelsen (Ph.D., University of Utah) has published poetry in
Carleton Miscellany, Concerning Poetry, Western Humanities Review, and Weber Studies. He has published articles in various magazines including Outdoor Life, Muzzleloader, and Equus. He is now retired from teaching English at Weber State University.

 

Unicorn

The only unicorn I know
Lives in the picture on the chiming clock
That hangs above the cash register
In Mama Siegfried's Truck Stop Café.
The spell that keeps it there
Is lifted every New Year's Eve
(The only time that Mama closes),
And it is granted the hour before midnight
To frolic on the Lshaped counter.
Under the one flourescent light left on
It gallops wildly, goring
The napkinholders, neighing
A tiny challenge to the sparks
Of rat eyes on the congealing grill.
Pleased with its reflection in the
Glass of the Delfield Dessert Cooler,
It shies elegantly at the display of
Tiger Yellow Flashlights, and snorts fiercely
At the dragon breath of the Tillamook Meat Snacks.
Then, for a moment,
It studies the passing lights out on the Interstate,
Believing it could, if there were time enough,
Run on that bright ribbon
All the way to the Emerald City,
And, if what truckers say is true,
Beyond, to Omaha.

When it hears the last pumpkin chime of midnight,
It ascends into its painted stance again,
And begins to count the thirtyone million
Five hundred thirtytwo thousand four hundred
Ticks, until its next hungry leap
Into Paradise.

 

Walking the High Wire

We should not believe entirely
In the radiant young skin
Of the waitress who serves
Our Belgian waffle, or in
Her promy burble, or even
In her genuine sunny smile.
For between her lovely toes
Could be a gum of old sweat,
And under her pretty nails
A scraping of her lover's back.

Nor should we altogether loathe
The rat at the core
Of the refuse heap,
Nursing her pink crawly brood.
For the milk she dispenses
From her licey tits
Is kin of the milk
That filled the breasts
Of all our mothers
And suckled all our saints.

We must tighten our grip
On our balance pole
(Its ends weighted evenly
With all our rats and waitresses,
Our curses and our benedictions)
And venture out onto the high wire.
The upturned face of the crowd below
Will be red and agape.
We will steady ourselves, and step,
And steady and step again.
The fall that haunts our dreams
Will tug hard at our feet.

 

Holding

Feelings empty
Out of me
When I write them down.
They pool
On the page,
And after a while
Congeal.
Good or bad a feeling lost
Is a drop
Toward emptiness.

My roan stallion
Was cropping grass
In a spring pasture.
When he came to my call,
Mane and tail streaming
Against the green,
Something filled my chest,
But writing what it was
Would only suck it out.

Words are the siphons,
Efficient as
An embalmer's pump.

My Godson,
Who would have been
Named for me,
Was prematurely born and
Died that day.
I went with his father
To visit him in the morgue.
We unclenched
One tiny cold fist
To see if fingernails
Were fully formed.
I could tell you
What I felt,
But I'd rather hold it in,
Troubling as it is,
Than have it drained,
Like my Godson,
From a warm and
Clasping sea.

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