I shine like a hairless fish,

or a tongue, but this is my pelt,

enclosing a secret's cunning--

winters in dark surf have given me

the silhouette of a wave rising

or just-spent, and the cold ocean

utters me like a whisper.

The sand-shark

cannot catch me. The rip-fanged moray

I leave behind, and your gaze, too,

is always tardy as you call

to your companions, aim the camera,

steady the binoculars for

another look. In my

better-than-hands the stone-shelled mollusc

is a morsel, and I pluck the flashing sand-dab

from her fathoms. I'm that name

you can't remember, the language you forgot,

the hope you knew would never come,

tide departing to return.


 Otter first appeared in Commonweal



Friendship is prayer. 

Photo:  Sara Hanif.


The Bee


A ricochet,

she races, lingers,

hurries to be forgotten,

the single vowel of a teeming alphabet,

too small to carry meaning.

Privation and bright colors,

these are what stir the amber full-stop,

this fragment made of hunger.

Dawn too cool,

noon too hot, where is peace

for this searcher? The chapter is the same,

beginning and beginning,

another blossom with a secret nearly as sweet

as its promise.

Almost followed by almost,

she survives beyond knowledge.

Even her dance of distance and direction

is the gavotte of decimals learning a new

place among the zeroes, notes finding a new

high-point within the octave as she

zig-zags, color to color,

clover to fuchsia to sage

in the only daylight.



Glass Eye

We lived in the cottage by the river

where it stood like milk

with the smell of town. Mornings

were the frying of smelt,

the little knives with eyes,

and my aunt and my mother and my sisters

chattered, buttering toast.

There were butterflies in the wallpaper

and my uncle would join us.

He had lost it

when a rifle burst. Snipers

had called to him from high trees.

He would descend

with his tie and vest and cufflinks,

smelling of aftershave and smiling,

looking at us with both eyes.

This poem appears in By Evening, winner of the Owl Creek book award,

copyright © 1992 Michael Cadnum


      Wir lebten am Fluss im Häuschen,
      darauf der Geruch der Stadt wie
      abgestandene Milch.  Morgende
      mit gebratenen Stinten,
      die kleinen Messer mit Rost,

      und meine Tante und meine Mutter und
      meine Schwestern
      schwätzten, schmierten Brote.
      Es gab Schmetterlinge auf der Tapete,
      und dann kam mein Onkel hinzu.

      Durch eine Gewehrsalve
      hatte er es verloren. Heckenschützen
      hatten aus Baumwipfeln auf ihn gezielt.

      Er kam herunter mit
      Krawatte, Weste und Manschettenknöpfen,
      mit dem Geruch von Rasierwasser und
      schaute er uns mit beiden Augen an.

      Translation of Glass Eye into German by Elke of Celle



Let me be the colors you see

when you close your eyes. 

Photo:  Sara Hanif




Night does not end, but it does depart. 

Photo:  Sara Hanif.






Let us be true says no living thing

but one human to another.

Photo:  Sara Hanif









< Previous   Next >

© 2018 Michael Cadnum, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Content and content layout by Michael Cadnum
Programming and design by Cousin Isaac