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4 poems by
Michelle Kern

Bring Me My Coat

Somewhere above the seagate iris quick steps make noise.

He claps across the room in his slippers.

His hands are cooped inside a gown.

His feet chatter toward the Sound.

His head opens. The jar of his head.

I’m telling you the story of Gull and Starfish.

Gull had on his lip a handlebar mustache.

Starfish couldn’t see rocks, but knew Gull could.

Gull sprung upward with Starfish between his teeth.

Their shadow turned itself on the wall.

The image of a spoked wheel.

Starfish fell against rain.

Against the shade of a boy passing down the corridor.

I can hear him say, Bring me my coat my shoes my money


Sneak out through the main floor entrance/exit when the front desk is hushed and empty.

The security guard is upstairs fixing a toilet, or screwing in a light bulb.

Exit is also possible through the basement door.
The door does not have an alarm.

The basement door does not contain an alarm that would be triggered by you exiting the door while wearing a Secure Pass anklet.

The housekeeping staff leave the basement door ajar.

Go through the back door of the physical therapy room, exiting to the parking lot.

The physical therapy room door contains a panic bar that will trigger an alarm if the door is opened.

If the door is opened or closed while the panic bar alarm battery is dead, the alarm will not sound.

Before Words

It’s already around dusk,
  the head nurse calls the police and says, Don’t worry.
  He must be in the building.

We come rushing: the whole troupe of us—
  sea glass in a wave.

  One evening in October, I wonder how must it be
     to wander toward the sea
     to simply look at the ocean
     or end one’s life?

              Then every evening,
           for a long time

boats pass the rain-slicked dock.
I watch the gates open

and close in dusk: the water is dark

with faces and yet, no face
is detached.

If You See Her, Say Something

When I walk into the woods,
and somehow stand apart
from the doll with the leg
on top of the arm,
the vulva in the armpit
(like one of Hans Bellmer’s)

how do I not become entrenched
with the girl whose doll this was?
Where is she now?
–sunken in a photograph
with eyes still moist?

I throw another twig into the dying fire.
Musk and woodsmoke rises
like a city on a high hill.
The fountain keeps burning
as long as I keep the fire alive
by throwing in branches,
perhaps half an hour.

In all this time, Eloisa doesn’t stop
snapping photographs.
Finally, she says This is it.
There are no more branches,
only shadows
where the branches had been.

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