Michael Knisely

Remembering the Last War

What good does it do
for a woman to go to sleep

facing the direction of her husband’s
departure? And what does it mean,

to fall asleep on one side
but to wake from dreams having

turned her body to another
position. What ghost will lie

behind her and hold her breast,
assume the curve of her back,

and stir her dreams with cool breath,
lifting hair on the nape of her neck.

And what of the war to come, to follow
a husband’s return, and the next cease fire?

Note: This is a custom of a certain African tribe



I am blowing
weather toward you.
I will change your lives
for better and worse.
We are married to
each other; you can-
not run away from
me. Even in death
your family may
let me scatter your
ashes. Accept me.
I will make your life
an amazing thing.


Mango Skin Flower

The trick to eating a mango is
not to wait until it is too late.

The slightest "give" to the fruit
beneath the skin determining

which mango to choose
from the store or the tree.

It's like how the thumb recognizes
stress in the muscles of another back,

probing the taut trapezius, a neck
stiffened from too long at the helm

of some dinghy or raft on the river
of family and job and dreams put off.

Just so, here, hold onto this fine mango
until I can quick grab the paring knife

and cut a pirouette around and around,
from the "bottom" in a spiral to the stem,

a single, arcing ribbon of skin, rolled into
a peony of red and orange, gracing the plate

where late the juices flow, the textures fine
between the roof and tongues of our mouths.


Ultraviolet Nectar (Bee Jazz)

Do you know
bees’ wings go
fifteen thousand
times a minute?
But who’s counting?
(Scientists). Two-
beats every second

twenty-five cycle
waves per second
makes a Middle C,
string bass singing
scat with the voice
whose fingers pluck
and press and slide.

How far our wings
and eyes take us, in
this distance between
our current hive and
this glowing field.

Did you know
bees can see
ultraviolet light?
And, that flowers
reflect ultraviolet
light from the centers
of their blossoms
just to attract bees
to spread their pollen?

And so the trumpet
competes with saxophone
and buzzing bass, as the
ultraviolet voice of sex,
sending the audience
into the bell of
the horn, the body of
the stringed instrument.

And now, in this
coming hibernation
death of flowers’
ultraviolet beckonings,
we devour the honey we make.


© 2002 Michael Knisely. All rights reserved.

Michael Knisely currently teaches English at the University of Nebraska, in the Division of Continuing Studies, in a program called The Independent Study High School. He also teaches composition at Southeast Community College, where his students learn to tap their own lives for narratives, to analyze the media, and to persuade the most hardened of opposition. He earned an MFA in Poetry from the University of Arizona in 1989, and owes a real debt to the poets there who encouraged his own evolving voice. He has spent the past decade in Lincoln, Nebraska, being the father of a now 17 year-old son Noah, teaching in the Nebraska Artist in the Schools program in addition to his other teaching roles, and continuing to hone his skills in writing, teaching, photography, and the culinary arts. Michael can be contacted at MKnisely[AT]southeast.edu (replace [AT] with @).


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