Jean Mikhail is originally from Avon Lake, Ohio, but moved to Athens in 1982 to complete her BA and MA in Creative Writing. She has published poems in Fifth Wednesday Journal, Northern Appalachian Review, the anthology #Queer, and in a few anthologies published by Sheila-Na-Gig for Women of Appalachia. She writes in her bathtub, or in the Walmart parking lot in her car, or anywhere she can find solitude. She has one biological child and two kids adopted from Guatemala, and her husband is Egyptian. Her writing horizons are likewise wide.
The first time you took the pills,
pastel yellow and scored in the middle,
I found one slipped under the door
like the offering of a little grey mouse.
At fourteen, whiskers were just beginning
to sprout, and your voice was deepening.
The night I found out
you were battling addiction,
you scuttled away, afraid
of your father and me. You strayed,
cut your arms, whipped like a slave
to anxiety and depression.
I rolled the sun-yellow-pill between
my index finger and thumb, focusing.
I found the identical picture on Google image
and knew you were a stone’s throw
away from death.
The doctors rolled you out on paper
flat like the Flat Stanley you sent in the mail
in third grade to your grandmother.
You couldn’t wait to see the places he would travel.
On the examining table, a nurse shone a light into your eyes.
Don’t you want to take in some of that light?
The light you emanated when you were small
enough for me to pick you up?
Your brown eyes have always been
rimmed in blue, or ghostly grey,
a sea to set sail, a world underwater,
primordial sea, before the age of the dinosaur.
Your bird-like pupil floats out of the picture
hungry vulture for your heart.
It flutters under your lids,
body like an eclipsed sun.
I know your love for me is in there somewhere.
I saw love in your eyes when you were just beginning
on this terrible journey,
at age fourteen, taking oxy, klonopin, acid.
You say you remember dying once.
You sat in the woods behind our house and tripped.
Once, a tree fell on the plastic chair
where you sometimes sat getting high
and we were unaware you were falling, too.
You weren’t hit, but I imagined your skull
cracking open. This terrible vision would not leave me.
Your growth plate dissolved, and you were
no longer. Your bones spread out
in continental drift.
I think of Noah’s Ark, world covered in flood.
I remember your cousins singing
that song about the arky, arky.
We laughed at it, and rolled our eyes
at the thought of Jesus Christ.
We didn’t need religion.