Pandemic (Reprise) by Nils Michals


Together we are no one says the woman. Together we are anonymous. Can you, she says, hear the house waiting in the night? Can you hear the language there? It, like us, grows older. These days the man understands; once a bystander in a stranger’s dream photography, now he’s wholly indifferent to whatever’s in the frame, whomever’s holding the camera. Yes, the man says, I can. Every day a famous person says you must not breathe that way. Another says, have you, like some soft animal, ever found yourself suddenly in the wrong landscape? Irrelevant, for in this age of misery’s unopenable packs of airline pretzels, weed makes the man and the woman who they want to be: illuminated, continuous, full and flown. Anything anyone else ever says again will be in the language of things always already falling apart. Voices are no longer necessary. They are a disservice to silence. Indeed, after the woman’s breath slips into some other place, the house is never more alive. Walls and pipes and beams and windows rising and falling as one. Even the child rises to see, sleepwalks to the edge of the living room, stops, stares through a window as if two far off thoughts are arriving simultaneously at an understanding the man is not sure she’s ready to receive. She shifts her weight, then returns the way she came, the way the man supposes we all must now: down a long, dark corridor and into the particular nightglow of our own making.
Nils Michals is the author of three full length collections of poetry, the most recent of which, Gembox, won the 2018 Washington Prize from The Word Works. Previous collections include Come Down to Earth (Bauhan, 2014) and Lure (Pleiades, 2004). A letterpress chapbook, Room, is also forthcoming from Sting and Honey Press. He teaches at West Valley College and lives in Santa Cruz, CA.