by Michael Daley


We are in the cellar; we are shoveling coal.
She is shoveling; I am only five. And useless.
She is angry. Whether with me, or not with me,
cursed be the boy in cowboy pajamas who shines
the ceiling with his tin quivery flashlight.

I have frozen her in memory, white
in cocktail waitress skirt and blouse, in nylons and heels,
bent to the heavy shovel she clanks in the coal-chute
while I brighten the cave.
As flame escapes, the iron door creaks open,
God’s golden claw breaking out.

Yesterday, I saw the pictures
of Turkmenistan’s Darvasa Well—
scorched on the lenses of tourists since 1972.
Despite Dante’s night sweats and visions,
he descended here, out of love.

Out of love, my father, fingers caging a shot glass,
calculates how to tell her he is wronged
by the work she does for tips from drunks with sideburns.
The black moles of his eyes emerge to gather my childhood,
then he descends like dirt down that torched well.

A hundred meters wide. What diamond is his mind?
After Freeze Tag on Annabel Street,
her coal fire kept us safe: Stop!
We are not moving. The planet didn’t ricochet.
No oil spill rings the moon. Nothing’s changed. I am it.



Michael Daley, who was born and raised in Dorchester, Massachusetts, entered a religious order as a teenager and upon returning to “the world,” was wild in the streets, protesting war and imperialism.

He traveled the US on freight trains and hitchhiking and worked at a series of depressing jobs until joining a tree-planting crew on the Olympic Peninsula and helping to found Empty Bowl Press. He later became a teacher at Mount Vernon High School in Skagit County and is now retired.

Michael and his wife and son spent a Fulbright year in Hungary. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts and an MFA from the University of Washington. In addition to the Fulbright, he’s received awards from Seattle Arts Commission, Washington State Arts Commission, The Institute for the Arts in Boston, Bumbershoot, Fessenden Foundation, National Endowment of the Humanities, Artist Trust, and The Poets House Trust. He lives near Deception Pass in Washington. His fifth collection of poems, “Born With,” which includes “Furnace,” was recently published by Dos Madres press.