Michael Dennison


Birthdays In Ancient Ruins


word: Oxygen / Letter: n


We left Marsailles for the Festival at Avignon

There was an industrial clothes drier; four men

who performed marvelously on stage before lights

pissed simultaneously on a wedding dress in a hope chest –

then the artist called Chlorine Just Chlorine came

out dressed as a 1950s housewife, smiled,

put the dress in that great washing machine

(with “Pere” written on it). [Oh yes, it came out all red.]

For 48 hours it was a fine birthday,

the sincere caress and kiss now as common as oxygen

on Mars. The years now doubled in length

are robbed of the seasons, all holidays de-mystified by the love-hating

anthropologists,with their cruel discipline and obsession

with leather flagellation for new lives of the new saints.



Except for the full set of Lives of the Saints

and the dust, the upper shelf is empty.

And despite the whip and harness

I would still welcome those dreams

into the dark, sometimes of toronadoes

and others, slow and laborious, of high perilous

ladders of silk and wire, like old corsets,

to dreaming wooden attic chambers, —

yes, you might say, naturally, too empty.

Then what of the spiders and mildew

and liquor bottles behind the Hagiographa?

Even Shakespeare remember fell so,

dead drunk to bed, in a provincial town,

dead regretting another birthday.



Michael Dennison is a poet living currently in North Lebanon, near Tripoli, teaching creative writing and English literature at the University of Balamand. Previously, he taught for several years at the American University of Beirut. He has published poems in several journals including Cleaver, Rusted Radishes, Drunken Boat, International Poetry Review, Weave, Frank, Van Gogh’s Ear, and Slab. In 2010 he published a limited edition book with photographic art titled Hamra Noir, a selection of Beirut poems.