Michael Mark

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The evening the doctors explained  
her husband wouldn’t be coming home 
she adopted a dog she named Jake,
her husband’s name. As he faded, 
she stroked his hand and spoke tenderly 
of his sleepy brown eyes, how deeply
she was in love. You never spoke to me 
like this our whole 44-year marriage,
he said, you were shitty to me. She praised
his playfulness, how loyal he was. More
he said. She liked how it tickled when he
nibbled her toes in bed. He continued living
what he called his happiest months, perplexing
the doctors who considered letting him go
home. Please, he begged, I’d like to stay. The day
he died she renamed the dog Kindness, 
after herself.  

Artwork by Gene McCormick

By a Window 

The night is searching its corners
for its moon. Next door, the women bicker
so nicely, personably, sex must be nearby,
circling slowly for a parking spot. Summer
is a large dog on its back rubbing its smell
into the lawn. The lawn is misting up
for its June. A perfect June night for a moon.
The neighbors’ session evaporates
so modestly I miss the squeaks
of surrender and fall asleep counting
all the rooms I’ve fallen asleep in.

I Brought a Gun to Thanksgiving

my mother made the turkey
my wife made the casserole
uncle Eddy and aunt Edie brought extra
folding chairs and cordless electric knife
I put it on the table, a Colt
turkey is a symbol of winning
pie is luck
green beans, community
the knife is religion
a pistol is up for interpretation
soon we forgot about it though
the food, the wine, the talk, the dulling
then the kids wanted to play with it
Thanksgivings go on unnaturally
long for kids
and this gun was shined up right
my mother-in-law started clearing the table
my wife said, sit, I’ll do it
then she said, no, don’t I’ll –
then she barked, Stop, SIT 
everybody jumped – that’s family
especially during the holidays
some said don’t let the kids touch it
some said nothing
a napkin – gravy splattered - landed over it
lipstick or wine or cranberry, too
a woman asked if it was loaded - my mother I think
pleeeease the kids begged
what’s the significance of a gun? someone asked
why do we eat turkey? I asked
uncle Eddy said I know why we eat pumpkin pie
but didn’t tell
my mother-in-law, cleaning the table, unknowingly
picked it up and jumped back, clutched
her wide chest, the gun in the napkin raised
in her other hand
don’t drop it
shoot Lilly
gentle - put it down - gently
stop shaking
shoot Lilly
shoot Lilly
don’t aim at me
shoot her
a million dollars if you shoot Lilly
you don’t have a million dollars
you can have my cat - shoot Lilly
if you shoot anyone I’m telling you you’re in trouble
shoot Lilly I’ll give you anything
we made plans for Christmas – time, place, ugly sweater reminder, mandate really
everyone left with left-overs
someone asked someone if someone
could not be invited                                                                           


Instead of going up to our bedroomArtwork by Gene McCormick
where we could watch the fireworks,
we work on bills.

She’s on one side of the kitchen
table, I’m on the other. Electric, water,
mortgage, cable, insurance. 

$130 at Nordstrom?
          A scarf. I hardly buy anything.
$60 for gas – two weeks in a row?
         You want to drive the kids? You want 
         to do the shopping?
I do some shopping.
         That’s the price of gas. If you didn’t
         move me to the suburbs —.
We’re using more electricity than last month.

She gets up, shuts the lights in the family room, den,
bathroom, hallway, kitchen. The clicks are louder
than Roman candles and bottle rockets.

It’s a good thing our dog is dead.


Michael Mark’s poetry has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, The Arkansas International, Copper Nickel, Michigan Quarterly Review, Pleiades, The Southern Review, The Sun, Waxwing and The Poetry Foundation's American Life in Poetry. He’s the author of two books of stories, Toba and At the Hands of a Thief (Atheneum).