The Washer's Bone Whiteness Laid Bare |
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The Washer's Bone Whiteness Laid Bare

First Place Winner 2011 Poetry Contest

Kitchen necromancer, mom unburies
the washer each week from its shallow grave
of crochet magazines, Wonder Bread bags
of phone bills, coupons clipped and saved towards
some unexpired future where Point Beer 
doesn't trump groceries. She even saved

the washer box. More than once Maytag saves
me from boredom—cramped beige cave where buried
treasure hid, the way I did from dad's beer 
rages. Make-believe vampire's cardboard grave 
in the basement, stamped Montgomery Ward,
half hidden by newspaper towers, bags

of squirrel tails, severed ends salted. Bags
squirreled away like paper acorns, saved
for emergency beer money. Howard's
Trout Lures
 paid a dime a tail. Dad buried
the silver bodies in the woods, their graves
a quick kick of neon leaves. Later, beer

became my friend in the navy. Barely 
eighteen I'd cruise the back roads, no baggie
of dope. Just a bottle. Amber gravel.
While I'm in boot camp mom files for divorce.
Back home on leave we make wild raspberry
vodka, laugh at berries tumbling toward

nothing. I grip my grimoire and draw wards
to keep my father banished, start to bare
myself to me … young gay Wiccan buried 
in a sailor suit. Mom starts burning bags
of romance books in an oil drum. Fire's salve
warms our faces. Smoke fills the sky's wide grave.

I lob a hair-spray hand grenade. Engraved
in dusk: its flash, the drum's red sun. Forward
thirty years: I own the house, father solved
by death. Mom lives in town, her barricade
of fear torn down, all the rooms of garbage
burned, the drum burned through, the ashes buried.

I dig a grave and pray and sip Point Beer
while light falls. Toward dark, I empty bags
of tails—gray tangle I saved to bury. 


Michael Kriesel is the winner of North American Review’s 2015 James Hearst Poetry Prize and past president of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets. He served on the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission 2006-2008 and was the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Conference Coordinator 2006-2012.

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