Mikayla Morell



Well, here goes nothing:

I’ve been trying
to achieve nothing: unwrite
poems, rewind
to unwind. The windup:

reading there’s nothing
in it for you.

I rewrite with less
than myself. Been here, done that.
Nothing to see here,
move along. This poem
is taking your brain
to the mechanic
without saying what’s
wrong. Can you fix it? Scrap it
for parts, make something
from the nothing
it is. Don’t make
sense of this.
Don’t change
the oil. Don’t rotate your
entire thinking. Ignore
all the lights that come on.
Don’t take your brain
to the mechanic.
or a high school
english teacher
there’s nothing
but nuts and bolts
skin and bones
marks and words.
There’s nothing to it.


This is it

This is it: candle blowing
most likely to succeed
public schooling perfect
attendance partial
scholarship forty hour
paycheck car payment
promotion punctuality
employee of the month
small press publication
most improved tassel turning
honor roll engagement
electric bill gas bill
water bill credit card
bill the mortgage


Clean Your Room

I’ll never know how my mother did it
all with too many
kids and practically kids,
neighborhood kids that joined
Family Dinner. She can and cannot
accept chaos. Can
in carpooling, caring, grocery
carrying, scheduling. Cannot
in scratch cooking, carpet
vacuuming, teen junk, color
coordinated decorating.

She is consumed by all
that is messy. I inherited
her anxiety of anything untidy.
My necessities: lists, checkmarks
white boards, chest pains with
the unfinished, asthma turned
anxiety attack. Inside,
my brain has become
her mess that I just
cannot straighten up. 


Hung Out to Dry

I did more laundry that week. Snot
crusted shirt sleeves, moist
salted collars. I spray the skid
marks and that stain your snot
left. All soaked before going in.
I’m not sure detergent made it clean.

I’ll throw your neck in
with the towels. Suck out
the bruised cotton, add too much
softener, smear detergent syrup.

I eat the bras you unhooked,
bleach the first date dress, and shred
any socks worn during sex.

I turn the dial to HEAVY SUPER
SOAK. I’ll dry your neck if it comes out
without the hickey on it. Otherwise,
I’ll hang it up.



School transfer, swapped
plaid jumpers with cargo shorts,
religion with Spanish, the Bible
with a writer’s notebook. I crossed
my heart for the Pledge of Allegiance.

One nation under God I said Amen! out loud.
The third grade laughed. I was an angler fish.
My light: quoting Galatians 6:10
in my plaid jumper. Good especially
to the believers. Sent to land
belly up. Can angler fish turn off their light?


Saint Nick

I blamed Teddy
Ruxpin and his gurgled
sing-song saying Can we be friends? stashed
in the Christmas tree box.
Teddy was on Julie’s list.
Jake found our presents first linking
pinkies not to tell Julie they weren’t
from Santa.

I blamed Sadie
on the playground, peer
pressure plotting: Can we be friends?
no pretty pleases needed.
I made her best friend
list. She found my Bible
first, saying it wasn’t
from God.

Santa’s not real? I asked Jake.
What good was reindeer food,
half full milk cups, Santa trackers,
leaving our shoes out
for Saint Nick?

God isn’t real Sadie said.
Then what good was
stations of the cross, mint
Bibles, five Our Fathers and six
for Hail Mary?


Apartment E

It’s not polite to say
I can hear their six minute sex

staccato beating from my ceiling, different
than the pulsing of their dryer at six

in the morning. John silent
until the end. Dependable, every month.

But their dryer runs every day.
They must hear me too, off-key set

on hitting Beyonce’s notes. The same
three songs cyclical. I hope

they at least know the words by now.



I eat all the letters in alphabet
soup, except for X. I regret
fishing it out alone
on my spoon for three years
when X only wanted to be eaten
by a man. I slurp
the soggy peas, drink away
the residual broth. Another X
stuck to the bowl side, divided
himself in two–looked more like
two V’s, not really an X. Spent
his time clinging to the sides.
My spoon flicked him down.
I want to leave them both there
at the bottom, not
drowning but without
a ladder. If alcohol
is added to the equation
is the value of X less,
or more? My soup
has gone cold.

I put them all together
in the same bowl, to compare
notes: how it went
wrong, how they broke it
with text, how their mom’s
loved me, how they tried
coming back
but ended up at the bottom
of my soup bowl.



I’m back on the Tilt-A-Whirl
thanks to the smell of vanilla bean
Burt’s Bees. I turn down rollercoasters sick
of the upside down, back-and-forth unable

to tell which way is up and down and how
to get out. Ready to just keep
spinning. I have a purple Sharpie.
When uncapped, I am reading

the Hobbit on my mother’s good
purple couches waiting to be shooed
off. I am ready to move to college.
I bring my basement couch

to my dorm. When I’m drunk,
my face finds the ugly
plaid fabric and I’m playing Barbies
with my sister. We put the dream house

on our Christmas list. Until
then, we use the couch - their temporary
home, building tables from paper
towel holders. We fly Barbie

and Ken to Hawaii because it’s the only
place we know. Ready to skip
the in-between and live
our dolls’ life. I get back on

the rollercoaster, twist the bottom knob
to raise the vanilla bean. There’s never
a line, I walk right on
dizzy from the last time.


Non-South Jersey

The equivalent
to roaming cows
is the drunks. Both
will stand mid-road
unafraid of your polite
car beeps–the antonym
of a deer in headlights.
Are there any wild cows?
The air is urine soaked
and second-hand smoke.
They can’t fence in all the cows.
I don’t know the sun. Only
from rooftops
or between blocks.
I took advantage
of the sky and how
much there is of it.
I eat more
than diner food,
the waitress still
knows my name.

Read the full thesis.