Without Pain

by Kelly Michels

“Swing in the Right Direction with OxyContin”
—marketing slogan from Purdue Pharma

All day the rain spills onto the backyard deck.
The narcoleptic hours, darkened and dim, rewind and nod off.

My mother walks five miles to the emergency room on a Sunday.
She complains of a toothache, tells the doctors she needs something

to get by. It is predicted the temperature will rise 30 degrees in the next
twelve hours, then drop 20 more tomorrow, which means more talk

of global warming or the next ice age, more waiting for the Earth’s
fever to break like a sick child.

On television, people are dancing in a field of wildflowers.
The sun hits their faces, their pupils confetti.

A man appears in a lab jacket, claims he has found the cure for all pain.
He crushes the flowers, alkaloids running white across his chin.

You too can be like them, he says. And maybe we can.
But then, without pain—

What will the monks chant? What shrouded
music, what raspy voice will rise from the A.M.

radio, move like heat lightning against our spines?
Who will hear our minareted cries, our tangled

whispering, lowered breath pleading with
the moon? What hand will rock us

to sleep, float through our hair
like bath water, bring us to our knees,

lift our awkward heads
toward the frayed dawn?


Kelly Michels received her MFA from North Carolina State University. Her hon- ors include the Rachel Wetzsteon Poetry Prize from 92nd Street Y, the Spoon River Poetry Review Editor’s Prize, the Robert Watson Literary Prize from The Greensboro Review, and an Academy of American Poets Prize. Her poems have appeared in Poet Lore, Third Coast, Best New Poets, Green Mountains Review, and Nimrod, among others. Her most recent chapbook, Disquiet, was published by Jacar Press in 2015.

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