Michael Mirolla


Photo © Antonio D’Alfonso






Crane Lake 1


We all speak of depth

as if the water mirrored something

more profound than the dragon-fly

that lands nonchalantly on your arm.

Or the snapping turtle that hovers near,

its craggy face blowing bubbles

thru the lattice of sunlight … the gleam

of an ancient presence that ignores

all around it … even our god himself.


We all speak of silence

as if the momentary glimpse

of loon should make us hush

in awe. Should make us forget

the rivulets of a dying lamp

pointed at the very centre of our betrayal.


We all speak of memory

as if … as if …





Only from the unbidden will “things” come clear;

only from the margin will the centre be found;

only from re-vision will the spectacle unfold.

Reverse the prism to see the light;

undo the machine to regain your limbs.


But the opposite of complex is not the simple

and ill-logic won’t cure what ails us.

The frozen fields just beyond our doors

aren’t devoid of life. They’re only waiting

for the right time.


What comes from the unbidden is the blackbird’s wing;

all the margin tells you is: ‘Yes, you are here’;

the spectacle holds up its own mirror,

bloody at the edges.







So, say now, who speaks for


the trees? There are those who cast their nets

like doubts upon the world, acting as if

they alone stood on the higher ground,

they alone were immune to the flood.

There are those who collect and stack

used images in a catalogue: ‘encrypted decay’,

‘gossamer pond’, ‘furrowed swale’.

The names of things forever frozen

on their lips, pale as fog.

There are those who squeeze out

what doesn’t concern them like blackheads,

prepared to fill the dead space

with their barbed presence – and leaving

not even the ghosts of tracks behind them.

There are those who harm no one

but themselves, the stab wounds stoic

in a mea culpa frenzy. See, they’re quick to point,

see how I beat against the numb silence

of the Real. And, so uncaring, it bloodies me.

There are those who bare-handed

claw the earth, who reach in

and yank the shoots into a type of growing.

In their desire to be trees,

they leave no stone unturned.


And there are more, many more,

so passionate in the multiplying.

Surely, one of these can speak

for the trees. Is it

so difficult, so unnatural?


There are those who edge forward one by one,

empty hands palm out before them:

“What is this ‘speaking for’ you

speak of? Must we bear witness?

Must we exchange hostages across a border

that’ll make captives of us all?

Must we misplace ourselves

to make room for other voices?”


It’s hopeless, then, isn’t it?, this idea

of trees: doomed to fail the acid test,

snapped in the grip of a dry tinder called reason,

gnarled corpses reaching for a sky

that’s no longer there.

Or never was.


But, wait. Flip back the notes. Perhaps there is one

after all, forgotten in the passing.

No, he can’t speak for trees – there aren’t

syllables for that. Yet, he might

sing their praises, lament their plight,

secure their existence. Listen:

“ ‘So, say now, who speaks for


the trees? There are those …’ ”


Are you there? Are you listening?

The words like blue drops hiss

in the serpent air. They mark the spots

that are no more – and then echo themselves

into a vanishing

that always was.





“To touch the thing-in-itself –

nothing more; nothing less.”

That’s what you’ve written over and over,

in one form or another, like a thick student

who just doesn’t get it.

Of course, there’s a warmth in repetition

and we all know the incantatory magic, don’t we?

But can words engender more than words?

You stand alone on a sandstone bluff, the wind

a bird that takes matter away a grain at a time.

Until it’s no longer a bluff.

Or it calls your bluff.

And you find yourself balancing on one foot,

on one toe, on the thinnest film of flesh.

Undermined by your own solidity, the world

is nothing but a speck beneath you. An irritant

that flies in the face of all you hold real.

And, at the same time, set to accrete

the moment you turn your back.

Is it then you decide to speak the cuneiform

you hope will fix things in their place

before they vanish for good?

Is it then you slap at the receding wall

with a battered trowel called memory?

The misty-eyed “I remember … do you remember? …”


And that seems to work for a while: a trading

of things-as-they-are for things-as-they-were.

A pinning of recalcitrant objects

with the words that will keep them still.

That will allow you to clasp them

in one last desperate embrace.


But there’s a price to be paid

for this scaffolding: what was ordinary

is now as strange as understanding

as foreign as space and time.


And you’re back where you started

A simple poem


curb side

sheeny feathers

bluefly landing


sheeny feathers

bluefly landing

curb side


bluefly landing

curb side

sheeny feathers


still crow





I settle on my haunches staring

at a piece of myself

in a plastic container

that once boasted light ricotta:

soft unripened cheese with 50%

less fat (whey, milk, cream, lactic acid, salt,

carrageenan, locust bean gum, guar gum).

Now it holds a small round elongated piece

of myself (bile pigments, mucus, unabsorbed minerals,

undigested fats, cellulose, meat protein toxins, peeled off cells,

potassium chloride, sodium bicarbonate, water).


I squat here thinking

of substance and sub-strata:

the slow hiss of air escaping.

Of sibilance in the grass

and fratricidal insects that scurry

over swollen raindrops.

Of the hound’s sharp bark

and the tree’s gimpy sway.


I rise slowly, raising chalice-like

the plastic container

that once held light ricotta.

The instructions are clear:

Lift flap.

Use applicator stick to apply

a very thin smear on OVAL 1.

Close flap.

Repeat procedure thrice.

Place in envelope and seal.

Return to test-giver address.


Through the skylight, shadows

grimace, hands on hips,

peering down amid the night shade.





Having fed the cats, you step

into the world’s deep growl

where the snaggle-toothed skyscrapers

like hookworms snare the earth,

worrying its raw nerve.

This is the 3 a.m. city. A furtive Mars bar

creeps along the burnt-out wall;

it’s raining pink fibreglass; the thin shells

of anti-matter crack loudly underfoot.

A man in a checked red coat is cutting himself

in two: first one leg

and then the other. The ghost of a peregrine

flies alongside itself, desperate

to mimic the motion that once came

so naturally. Rumor has it

a killer’s on the loose, eyes flipped up

into his skull, all-seeing. There’s a rattle

in his pocket; he speaks in nursery rhymes.

They say he’s waiting for you,

waiting to plunge his words into a tiny patch

of light, the dazzling conduit

to where you claw at the diamond real,

the sharp-edged truth of block following block,

square-shouldered, shrugging

saran-wrap shadows, the faces that glow

in the dark. An empty plate drops at your feet,

licked clean; a cat’s tongue lolls in the dust.

Perhaps this time you’ll make it back.



The Art of Walking


The roadkill rises, eyes rimmed in red.

The racoons, the rabbits, the rats. And you.

We dwell on the edge of somewhere. Like angels perhaps

flirting between possibilities. Like angels maybe

licking each other’s wounds.

A gaunt cow stands knee deep

in a sub-divided field. Stares out in the fervent hope

of slaughterhouse. That quick clean cut to the jugular.

Here, the signs come fast and furious.

Oops! You’ve just missed Camelot.

An exclusive enclave. For the millionaire. In each of us.

Sheep manure for sale. By appointment only.

Call Art.


The highway leans hard into the wind, its dull roar

like a grinding machine for the future. It spits out


detached housing


evergreen rugs.

One-legged flamingos stalking the elusive fast-food wrapper.

Cars snapping at the heels of brittle corn stalks.

The highway leans hard into the wind. Behind it,

civilization’s stubborn convoy.

Impressions of faces against taut plastic.

Crucifixes around the necks of mourning doves.



In the distance,

The hills continue to ovulate.

The trees strain against their leashes.

The windmills ride off half-cocked.

The snakes, the skunks, the squirrels are rising. And you.

We live on the edge of nowhere.

In a quiet cul de sac.

We reside on the edge of nowhere.

In a quiet cul de sac.

The sign at the end of the street:

Roadkill ahead.










Born in Italy, and arriving in Canada at the age of five, Michael Mirolla calls himself a Montreal-Toronto corridor writer (because he spends so much time travelling between the two cities). He’s a novelist, short story writer, poet and playwright. Publications include two novels, the recently-released The Facility, and Berlin (a 2010 Bressani Prize winner and finalist for the 2009 Indie Book and National Best Books Awards); two short story collections – The Formal Logic of Emotion (recently translated into Italian and released in 2010) and Hothouse Loves & Other Tales; and two poetry collections: the English-Italian Interstellar Distances/Distanze Interstellari (2008), and Light And Time (2010), His short story, « A Theory of Discontinuous Existence, » was selected for The Journey Prize Anthology, while another short story, « The Sand Flea, » was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His short fiction and poetry has been published in numerous journals in Canada, the U.S. and Britain, including anthologies such as Event’s Peace & War, Telling Differences: New English Fiction from Quebec, Tesseracts 2: Canadian Science Fiction, The Anthology of Italian-Canadian Writing (Guernica), New Wave of Speculative Fiction Book 1, and The Best of Foliate Oak.



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