“Out of Misery” by Mike Nichols

I want to stay,
sleeping, senseless.
But your absence
flips the lids on its
stunning baby-blues
and begins to chant
its untrue news:


“Good Morning, Good Morning,
Good Morning,”


like an abscess, throbbing.


And I cannot jam
the bloodied nibbled nubs
of my fingers
deep enough down
to staunch the sound.


I can’t continue
to accede
to the make-believe
that you
still stand,
at the stove,
scrambling eggs
in your too short bathrobe.


Your shadow
giggles and hides,
bats its lashes like some
exasperating child caught cheating
at hide-and-go-seek.


There. Behind the mustard
in the fridge.
There. Behind the bear
on the toilet paper package.


Your apparition
activates an aggressive part of me
which thinks it somehow
can get free.
Crouching, like
a wolf worrying away
at its leg twisted in the
steel toothed trap.
Hunkering in my head
its panting, an unrelenting:




When I struggle
tarnished teeth begin
stripping off the skin,
rolling it down like
a red striped tube sock.


Still, I can’t seem
to make myself
gnaw my own leg off.
Any decent woman would
put a living thing
out of its misery.
Wouldn’t she?


The drugs
and the bottles
and the drunken others
atop the glass,
atop the bar,
atop my bed,
barely blunt
the aching absence
of you,
within my head.


I guess I’ll get up,
scramble my own eggs,
and remind myself how
I don’t need a bullet
with your name on it
to cut a new track
for my
train of thought.






Mike Nichols was born all in a rush just after midnight, with no assistance from doctor or midwife, under a waning Tennessee moon on a chill October night behind a partition at the back of a tar-paper shack in which his unwed mother had holed-up for a time. Mike won the 2014 Ford Swetnam Poetry Prize. His fiction and poetry may be found at Underground Voices, Bewildering Stories, and Black Rock & Sage.