poetMichael Tugendhat was a student with the Curtis Brown Literary Agency in 2016. His newest release is a chapbook of poems, “What I’m Afraid To Show You” from Five Oaks Press.

As If Sanctioned

She stares all day at the linoleum.
And again, she grates cheeses of Europe
because she says the textured holes
aren’t large enough for her to fall through.
I watch horror movies with an oral guard
because the man she’s with claims
to be heterosexual, and Mom says I’m
helpless under him. So I believe her
& treasure what we have is the past
and dine through our lives together.
I never once held faith that she’d
like to marry a man like this—
one of vehemence approval
the church wants to see again
I’m on the floor roaming the specs
of chip dust and ant trails.
Mom says to set up the table
“We’re eating,” and I can’t
take off the guard because Mom
says you never know when he might
make a meal out of the supple tarts
she serves for desert, buttons
of sugar. Little stars I can wish upon.

Wishes and Fates

As far as I remember there was no reason.
She left, got in her blue Subaru, and plied

into the ocean, off a cliff like that butted chin
reminded her of him. She couldn’t take

the clock pounding like blood in her neck
not sure who’s hand cooled her skin, regardless

of hearing it come in. She makes wishes
but never has she meant one more dearly

than this. The cave is so deep she can’t even
see the bottom, ivy walled. Fate waking against

her, it’s her. It has always been her.
The car sputters in water, the engine fails

to start again, told she always could
but all she wanted was to drink the sea’s

salt. Though her body would never waste away
in the greatest preservative we’ve ever known

and this fact hurts more than a rough hand
on her cheek is a painted butterfly. She flies.

We’re All Swimmers

I’ve never held out my hand and felt rain.
Nor have I jumped in a pool naked, & fell in
sprained my ribs on the rope line, taken a tooth
to the concrete riverbed, or calcite shell
of shore, why do you harm me this way?
Why can’t we just eat the ice pops on
a hot day? Sink a rod and float a canoe.
Your body is a beautiful mural of white.
Light on anything can illuminate goodness
then why is yours outlined elusively, lover
lend me a hand and place it, not in mine,
but in a pool where it may float to another
person in need of comfort, faith. Catharsis.