Nils Michals


Nothing lives in there. In fact, there may not even be a there. How else can one say this? It looks like a box, glows a soft white, but once in the vicinity, a hand passes right through. And yet within—what fastens itself there: an entire forest, petrified white, whereby the occasional breeze stirs the crowns, lightly rasps at the roof. Ossified pine cones, bleached needles, lines of sap into concretized veins. The entire scene glazed to a gloss. If a tree falls, it turns to ash mid-air, and the lone dove of a feather that flocks to make a finer dove eats that air, expires. Do you really need to ask who your family is? A third party approaching from a great distance and out of the far right corner is not your mother. As for that baritone in the head, be your own father. One hypothesis has it made of a cold light, compatible only with a glacial origin. Another says, having been digitally enhanced, it will soon fill sleek shopfronts with a logo we can’t help but involuntarily consume. There is no other way to say this. This box comes from a corner that (a) is not even there or (b) has been there so long there is no longer a there. In Iceland, in August twenty-twelve, a missing woman joined the search for herself. It is not (surprise) at all like that: stepping out with others into a volcanic canyon, walking softly onto mossy lava, wanting to help find what’s right there. It is not at all like the photograph in your hand of a face eerily your own.



This is the little box made of ticky-tacky sung about in nineteen sixty-four. In the event you do not remember it is on a hillside, one among many in a row, a sugary pastel that cannot be shook. Did you know that longing begets longing? I did. As such, there are no real surprises in this box, the outside of which is encrusted with crudely glued Chinese crystals. Inside is something that goes unclaimed, then is gifted to the Church in the name of a holy work that shall be named later. For a half century the box fills with a kind of cotton candy nebula, spitting strands of pink floss. Weather changes fundamentally. The sea pulls cliffs down, halves of mansions. What was good for you then is now its opposite. Many of one particular crystal go missing. You say you reserve a place within of tremendous sadness for the poor upon whom youth and beauty have been wasted. Why? Don’t you know where your home is? What would you not give up or do? Vast powers over fields? Become a barn owl so as to murder in the rafters another barn owl? In some form or another the deficiencies inside the daydreams of princesses and bankers surface as a kind of insolvency. Someday the robe will slip off the young woman’s bare shoulders in a purely accidental way. People will be watching. That the box will resurface just then is no coincidence. And fitting. Who would not manufacture for themselves, however counterfeit, precisely what it is they are missing? Inside, on a bed of fine pink satin, a handful of slightly pinker candy rosettes.



So admittedly there are some slightly terrible things. Perhaps the box is not one to open as the shape has come to represent in popular opinion a reprehensible grievance. Perhaps, despite protestations, there was never a box at all. A man, a woman, and a child have a sum difficult to quantify. There are unmentionables in each: tiny keys to fictional padlocks, small infidelities in valleys, literal inabilities to communicate. Remember the wee little key perched on a ring of stirrup bone deep inside your left ear? Did you retrieve it? Yes? It is (surprise) a hopeless thing, a waste of brass and plated nickel better utilized for a coin, for a pacemaker, to green glass. As the story goes, the item, wrapped in newspaper, was presented to a prostitute, the request to keep this object carefully. We know the famous story of the painter’s ear because it explains a way of seeing we can’t ourselves express. The request is in the careful keeping, implicitly the keeping of the hearing of words, which is a slow work unto itself, like the dragging of a magnet through sand. Yes, we must hear the words a painfully chosen few deem important, but certain musics make a jetliner more beautiful in the sky. Weren’t you that child watching the enchanted iron leap? Watching a contrail materialize across a supportless blue? Of what were you just slightly aware? The next time someone asks where you’re from, say you’re allochthonous, which will grant you license to do some terrible and stupid things, which as we all know, is what people do when they’re not from around here.

Nils Michals’ first book Lure was published in 2004 by Pleaides and LSU Press. More recently, Come Down to Earth won the New Hampshire May Sarton Award and was published by Bauhan Publishing in 2014. He lives in Santa Cruz, California, and teaches at West Valley College.
This entry was posted in Poetry and tagged , by Posit Editor. Bookmark the permalink.

About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis ( is the Editor-in-chief and founder of Posit ( and the author of ten books and chapbooks, including Zoom (winner of the Washington Prize), Heisenberg's Salon, This Visit, and State of the Union. Her poetry has appeared in anthologies such as Walkers in the City (Rain Taxi), They Said (Black Lawrence Press), and Resist Much, Obey Little (Dispatches/Spuyten Duyvil), as well as in journals such as Agni, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Conjunctions online, Diode, Interim, New American Writing, and VOLT.