Michael Minassian – When I Close My Hand

Michael Minassian LEP&W Sept-Oct V2 2022

Download PDF Here Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume Two Sept-October 2022. 

When I Close My Hand, poems by Michael Minassian

When I Close My Hand

When I close my hand
I’m not sure if it resembles
a fist or a seashell—

it’s not enough to say
that if you want to know
death, look in the mirror.

Lately, I miss the vestiges
of former lives:
webbed feet and gills,
sharp teeth and wings.

Those yellow tinged clouds
racing in from the horizon
look like someone else’s
excuse for last night—

Tell me, what would
you have done differently:
crawl back into the sea
once you tasted land
and sun, not water,
on your back?

At The French Bakery

The croissants line up
like the errant heads
of the aristocracy.

Napoleons march off
to the Russian Tea Room
or the island of desserts.

Baristas operate guillotines
cutting off the foam
of lattes and the sound

of the ocean, a mosaic
of musical notes:
la mer, la mer, la mer.

Behind the scenes
bakers line up beating
and kneading dough.

Mona Lisa moaning
in the bathroom stall
smiling to herself.

Baudelaire cutting
holes in his story
following Poe

waking to find
women rising like yeast
in a graveyard of bread.

Still hungry, you wander
into the kitchen
watching Madame Bovary

molding madeleines
into the petite shape
of a vulva:

the waiting room
of Proust’s dreams
and the palate’s abyss.

Silver Alert

Staring at the telephone,
Cordelia takes a sip
of her morning coffee,
waiting until the kids
are fed and at school,
her husband on his way to work—
watching the video clip
of her plea for her father’s
safe return: forgiveness
measured in algorithms,
post-truth expressions,
and YouTube hits.

After lunch she visits the police,
then staples flyers to sign boards
next to posters for pets
and runaway teenagers:
the lost and permanently missing—
searching in homeless shelters,
park benches and alleyways,
cardboard boxes and tents—
calling hospitals every other day
and the morgue once a week.

Her bickering sisters tell her
not to bother, complaining
about their husbands
and the lover they share.

Some days, she looks along
the banks of the river,
dragging fishing nets behind her,
consulting palm readers
and brain surgeons—

His memory emptied:
a delicate delirium,
her father said.

(Once, unable to answer
Cordelia found language
rusted on her tongue)

She thinks to herself:
too much time has passed—
wondering if she would
recognize him dressed in rags
or walking with his sightless
friends, wearing dark glasses
or tapping a white cane,
hiding from men of stone
or the proximity
of his daughters’ last words.

Film Noir

In a black & white world
tendrils of fog rose
from city streets, manhole
covers, and factories
that burned day & night.

All the men wore hats,
& women could smoke
you with their eyes,
leading you down a trap
only a bullet could cure.

Children were urchins
or angels, depending
on the curl of hair
or cut of their clothes.

Mothers in aprons
waited at home,
wringing their hands
as the clock ticked,
& the sun went down,
throwing a lattice work
of shadow on shadow
across the room.

Somewhere in the dark
a whistling sound
approached through the mist,
the single glow of a cigarette
pierced the screen
and light poured out,
colorless, bright,
& filled with stars.

Ahead only bad choices—
you can’t see what’s coming,
even though you’ve heard
this story before.


From a distance,
the figure standing
on an outcrop of rock
near the lake shore
looks like a person
wearing a grey sweatshirt.

Tall as a man,
it lifts its head
& the sharp point
of a beak glints
once in the sunlight.

The great blue heron
flies off when I get too close,
skims low over the surface
and complains in a loud voice,
a long jungle-like squawk.

I hold my breath,
wait for the soft landing
wings outstretched, then folded
like a paper fan
an origami of feathers & sound.

© Michael Minassian

Michael Minassian is a Contributing Editor for Verse-Virtual, an online poetry journal. His poetry collections Time is Not a River, Morning Calm, and A Matter of Timing are all available on Amazon. A new chapbook, Jack Pays a Visit, was released in 2022. For more information: https://michaelminassian.com

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