michael king

stack of stained pages, redacted love letters, spilling ink, pressing it into tomorrow

we, in the days of quarantine.

i am an early riser
with nowhere to go,
a storyteller hoping
the wifi won’t cut me
mid-sentence, a
runner through an
abandoned cityscape,
catching my reflection
in two hundred
silent storefronts

we sit in staring contests
with our calendar dates,
each daring the other
to make a bold prophecy:
the day i can meet my
friend at the coffeehouse,
clink my mimosa glass
amidst the brunchtime
cacophony, rifle through
the stacks at the
bookstore, just for
something to carry to
the park that day

we are postponed
wedding days, decorations
tucked into boxes with
tender hands, funerals
from a safe distance, i
hope you know
how much i loved
her laugh, birthdays
spent in empty
living rooms

and we are
bodies that break into
dance because they
crave freedom, faces
that spill tears, a
confession told through
rectangular screens, we
are runners watching
the horizon, waiting
for the signal to
go, limbs flailing, heart
thundering, go

hope is a stubborn
weed, whose flowers are
nurtured through
humor, sincerity, compassion,
stubbornness itself,
we are hope itself.

Hand

a poem for today.

i’m sitting here, silhouette
against a window to a
wounded world, and,
hands shaking, i’m
fighting like mad to
write hope into this story,

if i’m honest, i’ve wasted
twenty-one minutes
fumbling with my pen

outside, the sky teems blue,
sun pouring over all the
everything, and i
can’t decide whether
the world is saying
‘don’t give up,’ or
shining a light onto
its indifference

i am reminded of
the morning after he
left, the way my
rib cage ached from
making sounds i
couldn’t believe were
mine, how i stepped
outside to find
a world still in obstinate
motion, found hope
in that movement,
ran on injured ankles
until my feet fell
in rhythm

but where can i mine hope,
today, when everything
seems to have screeched
to a deafening quiet

we are children who
cannot board planes
home, mothers swallowing
anxieties and teaching our
children to bake, brothers
who cannot reach to pull
our siblings into a hug,
lovers looking at the
world through a
windowpane

stubborn gardeners of hope,
tamping down soil over
damaged seeds, praying
hope, too, will be
strong-willed.

Hand

book club: ‘the best kind of people’.

I’m not sure where or when I picked up The Best Kind of People, but I do remember knowing instantly it had all the ingredients of a novel I tend to consume: a compelling plot, a family at the center, and a narrative that jumps from person to person as they move through the story.

On the night I cracked it open and read it for the first time, I was meeting my friend at a coffeeshop in Hell’s Kitchen. “I was trying to read something lighter,” I told him, having just finished a series of heavy reads. He read the back cover and scoffed. “Yes, Michael. Light.”

IMG_0508

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love letter in shaky handwriting.

I take a deep breath and study my hands. How do I write about today when I have no idea where we’re headed? In moments, I am joyful and boisterous; in others, I wrestle with despair. I am lonely and hopeful, afraid and resolved. This is what it’s like, I say to myself, to live through history. But how do I write about it? What voice do I take –– do I make jokes and brighten the room? should I offer words of hope, of courage?

Just show up. A voice, from deep within. An exhale. Don’t you understand? It’s always been this. You’ve always been writing in the midst of uncertainty. You’re long-practiced in the art of telling the story before you know where it goes. It’s hope, and it’s heartbreak, and it’s loneliness, and it’s laughter that echoes into memory. 

Write. I pick up the pen.

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thursday post: shaky days.

New York City declares a state of emergency due to coronavirus. I squint at my iPhone, tap the headline out of morbid curiosity. Swallowing, I glance up, look around at New York City. The sky is defiant in its blueness, sun pouring amicably over the concrete. Across the street, a man and woman stop to allow their dogs time to acquaint with each other.

I hold my thumb over the link, which Twitter says I ‘might be interested in,’ and hide it. Worrying never saved me, I chide myself. I listen to music, bask in my surroundings, let this body feel at home somewhere among the wild, concrete sprawl.

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saturday post: here & now.

I meet him for coffee. The coffeehouse is crowded, so we improvise two blocks up to a brunch spot we’ve both tried. There’s a ninety-minute wait, so we pivot, again, to a noodle shop. Over pad thai and spring rolls, we unpack our histories a bit. We moved here within a month of one another. His knee grazes mine beneath the table, and I’m surprised to see him blush.

Fast forward an hour, two men again on the sidewalks. Let’s go to the water, I suggest, and he agrees. I’m lowkey nervous, he says a few steps later, chuckling, filling a silence.

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funny story.

i saved a photo to my phone
i wasn’t thinking
just knew, by instinct,
how funny you’d find it
couldn’t wait to pull it up
thumbprints racing to write your name
like they’re still allowed to
write your name

then, like a snap,
rubber band stretched an atom too far,
history caught up to me
reminded me i don’t get to
send you funny pictures
reach for your name without thinking
i need to let go of phantom hopes
let the words we invented
become the lost language
they’re trying to be

so i’ve got this photo saved in my phone
in another life, it’d have made you laugh
but, in this life, today,
it allowed your absence
to flood the room.

poetry