Michael Schmeltzer


…for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. – Genesis 3:19, KJV

As the days passed, my limbs turned purple and my face turned to the colour of dust. – Kazuko Yamashima, atom-bomb survivor


Suppose we are not made of fire. Suppose we turn
children to dust. Should we carry their ash in an urn
as if the sacred exists? What some call love,
others burn as fuel. How should we speak of
paper and people enduring the feral infernos?
I have no choice. I ache. I shower with shadow.
I wrote a poem on my lover’s stomach with
my tongue. Which lasts longer, the width

of saliva, the sonnet, or her skin? Answer
the question in phoenix-tongue. The towers
collapsed on my birthday and a crimson bird
built a nest in a tree. We were kids then, sure,
but how do you explain this; we set the nest ablaze.
One egg cooked in the center. The rest we saved.


“Phoenix-Tongue” originally appeared in PacificREVIEW.


Michael Schmeltzer earned an MFA from the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. His honors include four Pushcart Prize nominations, the Gulf Stream Award for Poetry, Blue Earth Review’s Flash Fiction Prize, and the Artsmith Literary Award. Most recently he was a finalist in poetry contests held by Third Coast Magazine and Water~Stone Review. He helps edit A River & Sound Review and has been published in Natural Bridge, Mid-American Review, Water~Stone Review, New York Quarterly, Bellingham Review, and Fourteen Hills, among others. He lives in White Center, Washington.