Monday 3 October 2022

Three Prose Poems by Michelle Reale


My Father’s X-Ray


reveals a the spirit of sprezzatura. This is his birthright. His bones twisted in the clumsy ballet they are prone to when they make acquaintance with concrete.  Feet aloft one moment, splayed the next.  My father thinks wellness is  nothing but tedium, so he mixes it up a bit just to keep us on our toes. We note this carefully.  The X-ray did not reveal his sacred and studded heart, his brutal neutrality in most situations,  but we asked the doctor, who seems to be ageing himself, beyond what seems reasonable, to look anyway.  He likes my father’s stoicism, which has nothing to do with anything. . He winks and tells him that he knows some women he’s personally sent on to the afterlife who would like to meet a man who smiles through pain with stoicism. An attractive trait, the doctor adds as dust falls from his furry ears, a glint in his eye as to what possibly awaits him, as well. Nevertheless, my father’s X-ray, fluorescent and hanging  on the wall, reveals all that it is capable of.  The aged vodka on the doctor’s shelf is not medicinal, and he himself is no apothecary. At least that much is evident.



When Summer Begins to Die


my mother begins to hear old time ballads, a deep voice crooning the vagaries of love and romance, planets far away. It is difficult to pinpoint when it began. She enjoys the music immensely, but it interrupts her telenovelas.  She says that the  singing stops and starts in fits, and the man singing just might have a temper. Her unusually  large ear, fit with the flesh coloured hearing aid, twitches and swivels in different directions,  doing reconnaissance, tries  to pick up an errant musical signal. Her own mother, long gone, interrupts the musical broadcast with advice on being old, and how, at some point, your life is just full of generalisations and unanswered prayers. My mother tells her times have changed. English poets wrote sonnets for 400 years, now what? But her mother recedes, and the crooning begins again.  My mother closes her eyes and smiles.  Opens her mouth to say something, then thinks better of it.  Can you hear it?  Can you hear it she asks, with  elation and numbness for what is to be, as I close the window, before the novel cool air we desperately thought we wanted, reaches her, unaware.




Plenary , 1972


When my grandmother took my hair into her hands, she braided it like Holy Easter bread.  She tried to pull me into something that only she had yet to forget. On the floor between her knees I felt the tug of tradition like a surrogacy gone wayward and with remittance still due.  Later, when she spread the laminated holy cards  with prayers that would help her attain indulgences beyond her last breath, on her wide lap, I tried to reconcile her piety with my mother’s taurine nature.  When she told us her dream of the Sacred Heart coming to claim her at sundown, my mother waved the thought away like a story she’d heard a thousand times before.  Even I knew that everyone had an endpoint. There were some things we could never know for sure, but that was one of them. The Catholic school girl in me chose to believe in all of the ecclesiastical collateral she’d accumulated. My mother hoped that the dream she’d told us was misguided, meant for someone else, after all. But she was her mother’s daughter. My mother’s eye twitched and we felt the force of divination.  The birthright no one ever wanted to claim.

Michelle Reale is the author of several poetry collections, including  Season of Subtraction (Bordighera Press, 2019) Blood Memory (Idea Press, 2021) and Confini: Poems of Refugees in Sicily (Cervena Barva Press, 2022).  She is the Founding and Managing Editor for both OVUNQUE SIAMO: New Italian-American Writing and The Red Fern Review.


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