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ariel machell / poem

Nights My Father Wants To Die

A lake in his hands tonight, murky and bottomless. Though his head is bent, and though he looks, he cannot see himself. The lake is (st)ill. He opens his mouth, baring his teeth. There, a ripple on the surface. It’s not so much the words, but the noise of it, the particular vibrations. It’s what lurks in the decibels, honesty, the dark head of a cormorant, bobbing in the flood.

The utterance (dr)inks its way across the room’s divide like a handwritten will, and because it is not the first time, I am forced again to consider my father’s want. I try to imagine the perfect place to scatter him, at some beach off some pier, but I think only of his teeth. Of whether his old-fashioned crowns would outlast the fire. If they’d glint in the sun as they’re tossed with the rest of him. I think only plummet and submersion, the way he does. The lake spills and fills the space between us. He (dr)owns his misery like waves (dr)own the shore, violently, fleetingly. The lake is unswimmable. I throw bones I find on the edge, and he throws words far heavier. I take the long way around and it takes me all night. When I reach him, his eyes close the way the living do it, and it is (not) the end. The lake dries up, all mud and green linen sheets. Cold breath soughs from the grey-slatted mouth of the A/C, the siffle in the blinds above like neither curse nor prayer, sibilants replicated in sleep. Sibilants replicated in crest and swell. Shh, shh. And only one of us dreams of drowning. How fast teeth sink.


Ariel Machell is a poet from California. She received her MFA in Poetry from the University of Oregon in 2021. She is an Associate Poetry Editor for Northwest Review. Her work has been nominated for Best New Poets, and is published or forthcoming in The McNeese Review, trampset, The Pinch, SWWIM, The Shore, Up the Staircase Quarterly, and elsewhere. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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