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Michael Graber

Michael Graber lives in his native Memphis, TN, writes ad copy for his daily bread, but moonlights as a poet, writer, reviewer, editor, and jug band musician in the "Bluff City Backsliders." His three children and wife anchor him to earth.


Rear View

With yesterday undigested, the fumes
infest the sleeping, half-opened mouths.
Ceaseless exhaust deprives the moving room
of air worth breathing. A tour of the South
rankled every nose worse than pollen-
darkness backed with beer has filled all nasal
paths like drying cement. Between wheezes
and drips, the driver nuzzles sprigs of basil
from memories of a marriage ago. "Jesus,"
he moans. Tears, an antidote of illusion,
disarm the mini-skirt from an imagined angel,
revealing nothing. Regret tastes like diesel
his chosen home leaks. A toxic intrusion
of boredom gambled love for a seat on the bus.

© Michael Graber

Two Miscarriages from a First Marriage: Words for Carolyn 

Born Blue

You're a musician-imagine earth's decline
and only the hum of distant stars, outside
the explored world, offers sustained rhythm-
an arpeggio of notes fade to stillness
as the flow of blood ceases; the dirge your daughter
heard inside me while turning blue.
Mute from morphine, I birthed a science project.
The surgeon said the scar will look like a zipper.
My doctor ordered an extra box of Kleenex
since you were out playing. You prance in hours
later with cigars, bragging "it's a boy!"
"It" wasn't a boy, drunkass. Stop
grinning as if you fathered a new messiah.
Our savior is sealed in ziplock, honey, dead. 

Still Life in Blue

I worked faster than an ant crazy on coffee,
prepared the house for the endless cycle
of diapers, made a nest and yellow nursery,
washed everything twice, expecting a girl.
Chores done, swing hung, I heard the subtle lull
off which maternal fear and instinct feed-
a faint syllable of the voiceless in need-
and tried to believe it wasn't terminal.

As my bones bent, almost wrecking me,
every contraction lied by giving hope.
I even prayed between shakes and rests,
but I knew I'd birthed a casualty.
I unwrapped the cord from your wrinkled throat.
You tasted salty nestled against my breast.

© Michael Graber

Relapse in a Leaky Container

"What's under every skirt? A slip."
Behind the laughter, drying men unite with
muses who exalt rifles and fifths:
Each a face that launches thousands of sips,
rebels with sleepless resolve to dress
their mate's shadow in skin and smoke, or topple
Mister Clean's wagon with vexing bottles
of lightning mash or blooms of perfect breasts.

Death imagined leaves a taste of oak
the speaker spits out in words: "Before
you lift the glass, relapse has shot tendrils,
which crack the structure. These foundlings poke
and spider web the support. While you snore,
the roots of disease thicken wide as spills.

© Michael Graber