Poetry by Michael Dhyne

Art by James Scales / @jameswadescales



Like a Gift Passed Between Us


I wanted to ask if you could still imagine his body 
             holding yours, your hair sprawled across the pillow like a crown— 
but I didn’t. I wanted to ask, Where are you, or, 
             Where are you looking? How your eyes 
kept closing toward the other side. How 
             I held my body just like his, without knowing. 
Mother, what do you remember 
             that I am too afraid to ask? For months, 
I’d been taking the blue pills, halved with a dull blade 
             pulled from a desk drawer in the tiny hours of morning. 
It has become ritual, like those nights 
             where I saw my grief always 
as if from a window looking in, our hurried bodies 
             slipping between rooms, out of view. 
I see the pillows arranged so carefully 
             into a circle, I see us lighting the candles 
one at a time, saying our names, telling the other families 
             how he died. Remember those nights 
we held hands over the center console 
             driving home, those nights I’d cry out for you, 
and that quiet, like a gift passed between us, 
             because there was nothing else to give? 
How terrible to be at the beginning 
             of something ending. As if learning to speak 
meant learning how to leave, to disappear 
             like a father. Step into the circle… 
if you feel like no one understands what you’re going through… 
             if you still talk to the person you lost… 
if you’re still waiting for them to come back… 




              for Nichole
You noticed the pain months ago, imagined 
             the polyps, thought to name them 
like daughters, that they would have disappeared 
             by now. The nurse hands you a towel, and when you return 
from the bathroom, placing your feet into the stirrups, 
             I feel as though I have been gifted something, 
like we have passed through 
             a kind of threshold. I hold your bicep, as if 
from years away. You lie on the bed, 
             not crying, and in the parking lot, 
after you’ve dressed, I assure you there’s nothing wrong. 
             But what else is there to believe in? If not our pain, 
your tears drying on my sunlit shoulder, 
             driving home. You say, Tell me a story, so I tell you 
about your childhood, moving between houses, apartments, 
             rooms, beds. What you carry into each, lighter 
and lighter and lighter, until I am there and you are here, and then 
             we both are. I’m thinking now of this poem, 
how you asked me to write it because you couldn’t, 
             and what I want to say, here, that I can’t say 
lying beside you. That I believe 
             our bodies are breathing for something else. 
That I want to feel like I am you, or as much of you 
             as you are, or with you as much as a person can be 
with another, meaning, 
             we could have felt utterly alone in those minutes. 
But isn’t it beautiful that these rooms where we leave 
             and enter our lives—that it’s in these rooms 
where we inhabit one another completely, 
             as if there was nothing but space for us, meaning 
these are not our last bodies, lifted, as if from a box of photographs 
             in a child’s hands.



Michael Dhyne holds an MFA from the University of Virginia where he was awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize. His work has been supported by the Community of Writers, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, where he was a work-study scholar. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, Gulf Coast, Iowa Review, and The Rumpus, among others. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.