Michael Schmidt



On his way, Michael gets tired and stops at a concert in a park. Lays down his sword and sits on a blue bench. There is only the Artisan but He's always talking Rest This, Rest That—surely a moment can't hurt. And the guy working at the sound booth has such eyelashes. Michael's wings shiver as the prayers for intervention rush in, but Sound Guy turns up the volume and Michael can barely hear himself be. He doesn't wonder if this is the fatal mistake, if this is where the exchange of the thing for the shadow of it begins. Michael hears shrieking in heaven. Feels heavy with the Artisan's will. Some old guy gets up and starts shaking his ass and Sound Guy grins, looks at Michael who is also grinning, and suddenly the wind is full of feathers, sharp as razors, sharp as the erased vowels of the Artisan's name.

II (Forbidden Fruit).

One time Michael gets lost in a nature preserve in Michigan. Gabriel is there. They walk for hours, listening to the birds—Gabriel names them—and looking for the rumored corpse of a muskrat. Gabriel can't stop talking about the Artisan, and it drives Michael mad with a lust that looks like the day before crocuses in spring. Gabriel is soothing and Michael speaks for the first time. He talks and talks as if his words could cleave to his shoulder blades, form wings. Michael blinks and Gabriel is gone on the Artisan's blue tide. Something strange happening in his form. A wet on the face. Michael buys the Audubon Society's guide to North American Birds. He does the best he can, his body already peeled from the Artisan like skin from an apple.

III (One Night Stand).

Doesn't know how to do it. Other guy doing all the work. Loves how it feels in there but Jesus, the smell...Afterwards, the guy says This was great and all, but your body is almost too perfect. Who really looks like that? How much did it cost you? Michael thinks—thinks—O Lord, in your mercy, and remembers—remembers—the Artisan was never wrathful, not even once. But His mercy was always like a forest of razors and His love like a millstone around the neck of the world.

Occasionally light from other cars muses through the foggy windows. After it's over, Michael can hear sweat sliding down a cheek. He reaches out but nothing's there. It takes him hours to find the word pain blooming inside him like pleasure.

IV (Human).

Gets a lot of flak about "essential gender" and how he's a "mindless supporter of the Patriarchy". Can't stop seeing Sound Guy's long eyelashes. So what if he's always loved men? Where do angels fit in the hierarchy of the oppressed? What does his opinion matter? Anyway, now he's only...

V (Failings).

He is starting to unbecome from everything, like the Artisan's ONE TRUE NAME (those goddamn vowels!) and a purple spider's dewy web hidden in pines. He's been on the internet 34 hours, reading, looking. He has black hair; his fingernails are growing. He is beginning to know things. He doesn't want to stop, not ever.

VI (He Does Not Transition Well).

His skin losing that divine
shine, that heavenly
smooth. He sits for hours at a table, listening
to mediocre music and glancing
at families that alight and disappear
like prayers. Can still hear the shrieking, but muted
now, and his sword has turned to stone...
what can he do? He wanders by the food booths,
hunger not yet arrived on its dark train.
But Michael can hear the tracks, the clangs. He looks
up. Normally this would do the trick,
but all he sees are maple leaves
shaking. He has never had to think about home.
He hears a deep whistle, gulps loud as a cartoon.

VII (Michael Learns About His Wikipedia Page),

which is repeatedly vandalized by anonymous users. But there are two users who watch over it, undo the damage done (see, for example,'s deletion of the entire text, briefly replaced by the words "your [sic] all gay. Gay. Gay. Gay. Gay. Gay")[1]. Michael wonders By whose hand.

VIII ("It is solved by walking").

Michael was reading in Starbucks when Sound Guy walked in with a girl. They sat down right in front of him. His hand tightened around a peppermint hot chocolate. Tried to smile but Sound Guy kept talking to the girl about ontology, how a thing that is needs what it isn't: how he needed her. Michael stared at Sound Guy's fedora, gray, gray, and the black curls below seemed to wink. He shook his head and blinked. Got up and went outside, remembering Augustine. Began.

Michael is a first year MFA candidate at the Inland Northwest's Center for Writers in Spokane, WA. He misses the Pacific, though. He doesn't do anything cool like keeping chickens or growing things. He's trying to learn Russian (pray for him) and discern where he fits in the family of things.

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