By Mike Piero
She checks in on me each month,
dutiful like clockwork,
taking account of the numbers,
the signs, and the relief from self-assumed guilt
while waiting for my last moment
if only so as not to miss it.
Her hands wrap around my flabby, cancer-ridden back
with a kind touch,
one only a daughter can give,
equal parts affection and disappointment,
given the years of feeble best tries
and witnessing my own metered troubles.
By next Spring, I will be discontinued service.
Only the electric company will still visit my home.
The Collector of Angels
My chronically-ill mother collected porcelain angels
with gilt-edged halos and beatific smiles,
steeped in unending folds of white porcelain,
yellowed paint made to look like gold,
no rough, artisan edges to be seen, as though
they kept watch over her disabled body that slept
twenty-one hours a day
and endured the incredulity of MDs and PhDs alike.
Wrapped in silky white robes,
her angels kept her alive for another day.
One December evening when I was just a little boy,
I dropped and shattered the smallest angel
while dusting our rusted steel baker’s rack,
an angel it turned out that could not fly.
I looked at the mess on the linoleum kitchen floor:
the angel’s halo broken clear off and a missing wing to boot.
I repaired the tiny spirit with ceramic glue
found in my father’s tool drawer long after he left,
but the angel still betrayed my puerile carelessness.
When my mom discovered the damage, she said it was
no big deal, and we discarded the angel in a trash can,
broken and useless: still, I was crushed by the angel’s fall.
I learned that day just how quickly one can dispose of another,
as I watch a bulwark of living, adamantine angels encircle
a more guilty set of fragile Boys, unafraid of their flag-wrapped
masks and emblem-adorned firearms of fear-soaked dogmatism
that seeks to dispose of every othered, unfamiliar thing,
an eagle-stained fear: these are the angels I now collect,
my own tea leaf wings emerging from the hard-earned
wounds of youthful and tyrannical fragility.
Mike Piero (he/him) is a bisexual writer and professor in Northeast Ohio. He is author of Video Game Chronotopes and Social Justice: Playing on the Threshold (2021), and his creative writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Impost, Midway Journal,and Moveable Type. Find him at www.mikepiero.org.