Michael McKeown Bondhus

Poem Riffing on Lines from Nicanor Parra

I thought of a slice of onion I’d seen during dinner
And of the abyss that separates us from the other abysses

and I think of this salad bowl
as the Great Salad Bowl of Being:
cherry tomatoes of the mind,

green peppers of libido,
the black olive’s cosmic secrets,
the radish’s hard-to-swallow truths.

What’s on the other side of the hard
boiled egg with the yolk like a black hole?
I wield my sharpened onion like a rocket

ship passing
through this privileged reality
into a neglected one, fresh

with crunch and possibility,
not colonizing but chilling
in the fecund abyss

of a new salad bowl where
there’s so much to learn, beginning
with new definitions of everything:

tomatoes are neither tomatoes,
nor peppers, nor carrots, and the new
bowl may not be a bowl at all but

simply a vessel in the way that this universe
is a vessel, and if you
cross to the dark side of its cosmological

horizon, you’ll see the stars are different,
and the planets are different, and physics
is still physics (but different), and you’ll finally

truly understand that if you tap
a wedge of onion against a slice of cucumber
it’s possible the onion

will pass right through the cucumber
into a dimension without vegetables,
and the probability of that happening,

while admittedly slight,
remains the same
every time.



The first time a guy calls me by my chosen name in bed

The first phoneme moans
into first person and it’s
like you’ve claimed my name
as I’ve claimed my name
which I love
all the more when it gets hard
in your mouth
halfway through, soft ch stiffening
into k, like cannon, the thing
your tongue becomes at the end, launching
that final syllable, all, like ball, or enthrall
or call, call me Michael; spit
it into my mouth
so we can both taste it.



Michael McKeown Bondhus (formerly Charlie) is a bigender (male/neutrois) Irish-American writer. He's the author of Divining Bones (Sundress, 2018) and All the Heat We Could Carry (Main Street Rag, 2013), winner of the Thom Gunn Award. His work’s appeared in Poetry, Poetry Ireland Review, The Missouri Review, Columbia Journal, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and Bellevue Literary Review. He’s received fellowships from the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, the Sundress Academy for the Arts, the Tyrone Guthrie Center (Ireland), and the Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers (UK). He lives in Jersey City, NJ (unceded Lenape land) and teaches at Raritan Valley Community College. More at: michaelbondhus.com