Michael Hammerle ~ Six Poems

Staple in my Thumb

Our home was close to a skat­ing rink
that was attached to an alli­ga­tor farm.
And Pop did not react when Chris was mak­ing tea
in the cof­fee pot and spilled it down the front of him.

I had dropped a cin­der block on my finger
and Gram poured per­ox­ide on it.
Gram, to help me catch my breath,
told me the com­mo­tion was the germs dying.

Pop only showed emo­tion when we ran
away from him and he had to chase us.
I had a sta­ple in my thumb nail and
would­n’t let him take it out with
a pair of nee­dle nose pliers.
He was pissed I was mak­ing a scene.
(Even if it was at home with no one to see.)
I ran past the pull-out couch that
Nana would use when she visited.

I crouched on the oth­er side
and my Pop would only get so mad before he’d quit.


My cousins, my broth­er and I, had sat on the back of the couch leaning
into the wall and receiv­ing temporary
tat­toos by Iggy and my moth­er’s sister.
The adults got real tats.

Later my aun­t’s chil­dren would set fire
to the room Chris and I shared—
It is still up for debate if her kids threw
the baby pow­der that was cov­er­ing the room before
or after the fire.
I was so mad we opened that door
for my aunt’s fam­i­ly because they treated
Pop’s house like they’d nev­er see him again.
I’d been to their house, a large stu­dio, and they had
Mortal Kombat, but all the rooms were divid­ed by sheets.
And there were too many snakes—
this is what I thought about all the time
I wait­ed, side of the couch, sta­ple in my thumb,
until my Gram got home to pull
the sta­ple out.


My Pop thought I did­n’t trust him and that’s not it.
My Pop worked on me like I did­n’t have
any damn sense of feelings.
Gram would give me a sto­ry and go

Pop worked me so hard I had to pretend
to need to use the bath­room so I could
catch a break. I had to keep up
with Pop or won­der if I weren’t cut
from the same cloth.

My Pop accept­ed me back
after a neigh­bor­hood scrap
that near­ly end­ed with my bike stolen.

Anytime my broth­er, Chris, and I fought
we had to know that you can’t win
them all.

The les­son was hard proven
when a step dad and then beloved uncle,
showed us that blood runs slow
in the cold and beat my brother
in his ribs like he belonged
to no one.

My broth­er belonged to me
and I did­n’t know then to raise my hand
and share that burden.

The next time, I wouldn’t need a story,
these sit­u­a­tions would just be life.

If I had to pull the sta­ple out
with my teeth, I could.


Child Mothers

If all the homes were creaking
would the fathers mind the floor
boards or would they
leave in their socks?

Our father could always return to
us, but like a true con
it’s hard to turn
your­self in when no one can remember
your face.

Our moth­er, the liv­ing witness,
two-under-two by six­teen and left
for dead.

This house is his.

Our father goes
and waits
for us to leave
like we’re the last electric
bill from a pre­vi­ous house.

We do go, I’m told,
after the food ran out.


Empty Driveway

Gram was always working
the 11p.m.-to-7a.m. front desk
of the Best Western.
That’s how I’d sneak out the house through the front
win­dow and walk the streets just to do it—
no one knew, but my brother.
He “put a stop to it”. (We were very young
and wouldn’t have known to think Ted Bundy
had killed down the street.)
I loved the side­walk, it was warm
on my bare feet even though the
sun had been down for hours.
It wasn’t that I made the connection,
that my mom, years before, had gone
out this same win­dow and altered her life:
Oh, I need to stop ven­tur­ing out.
It was a game of tag and I want­ed to tack­le my brother.
He was stand­ing on the couch
in the moonlight.
I flew at him chin-first. He hurdled
and I went through the glass smack into the side­walk below.


Things I Learned Waiting in Hospitals

Stick your fin­ger in every coin recess
on any device and chase the almighty
two-fer. Walk around the hospital
enough and you’ll find cash on the floor
only the old ladies will fight you for the money,
near the gift shop, the food court, is the hotspot.
Only now that I’m old­er do I real­ize what
two kinds of peo­ple would leave, or drop, money:
rushed or care­less. There’s a moth­er some­where who could
have tak­en her boys to the park, to the alli­ga­tor farm,
to the arcade, to the skat­ing rink, relieved them from
the place that teach­es you to wait and select
what you hear, this one is for the grandmothers
that did their best, to fam­i­lies that walk­ing side-by-side
is like a car, we don’t hold hand when we cross,
but I fol­low my broth­er so close I step on the heel of his shoe
and piss him all-kinds-of-ways off.
The grand­moth­ers wheel the grand­fa­thers, they look
like they are following
but they are leading.


Found Beauty

Found beau­ty in:
the light­ning burst behind the tall,
dark build­ings, that illuminated
the alley ways from the hospital
to the front street;

Found beau­ty in:
the heavy rain mak­ing a
grimy riv­er spill into the drain
how every­thing may have looked
blue or that’s just the way I remem­ber it

Found beau­ty in:
the ledge that went ‘round the whole out­er building,
and the doc­tor I imagined
smok­ing, crouched down there, daring,
and over­look­ing the ER bay.

Found beau­ty in:
going low­er than the first floor,
even if the doors opened and the
ter­ri­fy­ing word “morgue” was
adver­tised on the wall.

Found beau­ty in:
the dis­ser­ta­tion sum­ma­ry posters
that hung the hall­ways’ walls
like a movie theatre.
I’d appre­ci­at­ed every drawn-on
ceil­ing tile, I was start­ing to
give myself tem­po­rary tat­toos with
a ball-point pen.

Found beau­ty in:
see­ing bril­liant peo­ple coming,
meet­ing, and going in the atrium;
watch­ing doc­tors of all kinds
med­i­tat­ing over cig­a­rettes and coffee
in the bam­boo courtyards.

Found beau­ty in:
the food-court Wendy’s line, where
soon to be wid­ows’ leather purses
waft­ed up com­fort­ing and steady, cold smells
that mixed well with French fries.
When we stood next to the doc­tors, they’d fold their arms
at their diaphragm.


The Bastard That I Am

I could give you a daughter
and try forever-love.
Hard to say
if I’m a good one
I want to be so many things.
Tried more times than lightning
to be grounded.
Made more mis­takes than all the lost
Forgot promises
felt good on days
only because of my ability
to forget.
I could give you a daughter
and guar­an­tee noth­ing else
but I’d want everyday
to not be the bastard
that I am.


Michael Hammerle holds an MFA from the University of Arkansas, Monticello, and a BA in English from the University of Florida. He is the founder of Middle House Review. His work has been pub­lished in The Best Small Fictions, Split Lip Magazine, New World Writing, Louisiana Literature, Hobart After Dark, Maudlin House, and else­where. His writ­ing has been a final­ist for awards from American Short Fiction, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and Prime Number Magazine. He lives and writes in Gainesville, Florida.