Ann E. Michael

Reading Old Diaries

When I wrote about the city
it was as though I knew
I didn’t belong there,
would not thrive—as though
I wouldn’t stay long
and so pressed each line
on the page urgently, camera
shutter clicks, each image
framed in fractioned seconds
as people jaywalked and
side-walked, as pigeons
or sparrows alighted to peck
at civilization’s least crumbs,
as young men lovely and
unattainable grew ill, as city
failed to succor any of us,
as my ambition floundered.
Years back. So that what
I recall is what I photographed
or wrote, however inconsistent.
Naively urbane, the city
my youth inhabits lies brittle
in the pages. The past undoes
itself at last. Or I do.

=  =  =

Hog Butchering Demonstration (Deconstructing Breakfast)

Cleaving bone and muscle
beneath tough hide,
the man with the knife starts his
slow disassembly,
describes cuts of meat,
holds out intestines, uncoiled:
“used for sausage casings”—
removes the bladder
to rinse and inflate—
children’s game, an old-time balloon.

The carcass resembles nothing
the audience usually sees
whose meat arrives in cellophane
processed—slices, nuggets.
The children, especially,
have never watched the studious
and useful taking-apart
of a body, never witnessed
anything dead
but the flattened,
nearly unrecognizable bodies
of road-killed opossums.

No comparison, this 600-pound hog,
hooked and dangling, its interior
opened with jigsaw precision.
The man with the knife
is a revelation.
They stare fascinated
at the butcher’s truth,
the exacting history of
their breakfast bacon.

© Ann E. Michael

Ann E. Michael’s second full-length poetry collection, The Red Queen Hypothesis, was winner of the 2022 Highland Park Poetry Prize and is slated for publication in 2023. She is the author of a previous book and several chapbooks. She lives in eastern Pennsylvania and blogs at

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