photo of a plastic nose on the ground

Two Poems by Michael Hurley

In Defense of Cosmetic Surgery

An Indian surgeon invented the nose job almost three thousand years ago. Criminals were punished for crimes of adultery by having their noses chopped off in the public square. Some pun, I’m sure, that doesn’t translate: “Sniffing around,” and such. The good doctor returned what was taken.

Posed his patients like threats in the mirror of his tiny hidden operating room: cheaters, liars, criminals.

Unwrapped the gauze, saying Look. Feeling (yes, I’ll say it:) godly.


We wore torches like miners to explore the enclaves of one another; this room has pears on the wallpaper and we whisper signs and wake and bathe. Search for future in flights of birds. Let sage steep for ten minutes and watch for faces. Don’t let it burn the way Shelley’s heart would not burn and rests still on his mother’s mantel.

I have drunk too much and sing fight songs on park benches. I practice my signature – carnivals sing under your eyelids like cysts.

Ears to the glass recalling, even at dawn, your parched glands, your mouth full of savior. Its pinks saturate. The desk wiped clean.

A shelf for books, a curling iron, a choir of invisible Victorian women shaped like trees. The days don’t bleed but are blown and glow. They nest like glass. Today dawn will last all day and you wear socks and something else.

See the sinew of your arm in the window: imagine it is a scarf, mittens, a fork for salad. See how your doors close. The train is full.

I am the jade likeness of a mother god. You are the king. We prune.

We are riddled: bodies pock-marked and dog-eared like pages from sucking at the world with straws.

See how alone living can make us: the coins on the dresser.

We can really only ever know the skin of one another for certain.

Michael Hurley appreciates you reading his poems. He lives in Pittsburgh.

Lead image“A Nose For The Road” (via Flickr user Tony Alter)