Blood Narrative / Michael Steffen


Blood Narrative

poems by

Michael Steffen

ISBN: 978-1-59948-846-2, 76 pages, $14 (+ shipping)

Release Date: March 11, 2021

The Advance Sale Discount price expired February 10, 2021.

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Michael Steffen is the author of three previous poetry collections—No Good at Sea (Legible Press, 2002), Heart Murmur (Bordighera Press, 2009) and Bad Behavior (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2012). His poems have appeared in a wide variety of journals including Poetry, Potomac Review, Poet Lore, Rhino, Chiron Review and many others. In 2002, Michael was granted a Fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. He is a graduate of the MFA writing program at Vermont College and currently lives with his butt-dialing wife in Buffalo, NY.

Steffan’s warm, generous, lively poems speak to the narrative of body and spirit, family, marriage, community and culture, assimilating past and present losses with gratitude for every moment’s whole: luscious, embarrassing, lonely, and loving, reveling in the sensual. The surprise of sudden humor, beauty or truth infuses every poem, reminding us to live fully, because “somewhere offshore in the eye of apocalypse,/angels raise their trumpets—” as I raise mine, to this wonderful blood narrative. ~April Ossmann


Michael Steffen’s keen, penetrating wit is not only deeply satisfying, but offers succor in an era when there’s little stomach for whimsy. But these poems offer much more. Scope and intimacy define this latest collection, and it begins right off with “Moths,” the first poem. This gentle but prescient lyric offers a blessing of sorts for what comes—a journey of unblinking observations and ribald proclivities that reveal a poet whose realization of mortality has shaken loose a kind of hard-won wisdom. We sorely need poets who so fully attend to craft and to the honest resurrection of lived life.  ~Pam Bernard



on a careless, spiraling night flight,
absorbed by the brilliance at the edge

of its source—though they’d taste
the filament if they could, with proboscis

or feet, smoldering inside the streetlamp
divining the dark, brighter to them

than the waxing moon, as they copter earthward,
littering the wide, polished avenue,

like paint chips fallen from a blistered sky,
petals from the highest garden.





Perhaps road crossing was encoded
into the chicken, and predetermined events

triggered the courageous fowl
to take its first proverbial step

onto the searing asphalt. Why
is not important. Its motive will be

questioned for years to come,
and some may reply with punchlines—

because it was too long to walk around—
or simple statements of fact—

to get to the other side. Regardless
of purpose or the confluence

of events conspiring to effect
its crossing, it took some pluck—

traversing an interstate, being true
to its nature to forage

beyond the center stripes. No doubt
it was afraid in the face

of such danger. Who among us
could resist admiring its valor or make

the same claim to courage
and strength of conviction?

No one is certain
how many cars it sidestepped,

but it dared to dodge and succeeded,
as no other chicken had.

No marker commemorates its deed,
no bronze plaque preserves the date,

but of this we can be sure:
one pioneering avian embedded
itself in our cultural gestalt,
perhaps inspiring generations

of other chickens to other heroics.
It simply would not stop for death.

The chicken did not cross the road:
the chicken transcended it.



Blood Narrative


I’ve spent enough hours on a gurney to know
my remaining years are probably numbered
in single digits, after which I may or may not
pass through walls and join my kin
on some eternal, cloud-filled playground.
I’m not meant for heaven’s fluffy
non-landscape, or any of hell’s nine circles.
Mine is the dogma of earthly pleasure,
the crisp, made bed, the fresh linens,

the fucking, the food, the cold glass of beer.
I’ve seen the Cubs win a pennant,
my two-year-old toddle out the door
and return a savvy businesswoman.
I’ve burped my fussing grandnephew—
seven pounds in an oversized onesie
labeled, Ladies, I Have Arrived
and already nagged him about college.

I am still in love with the scent
of freshly mown grass. Even though
my days are flaming red, veins burning
from eight cycles of chemo, even though
I feel in my blood I am inching away,
I’m not prepared for the story
that goes on without me, not ready
to relinquish the rapture

of a backyard nap in my hammock,
or the Quantum Physics for Babies
cardboard picture book
I’ve slowly read and re-read to Noah,
or the many pounds of salted cashews
I’ve yet to eat, pastrami and eggs,
peach margaritas, pizza with extra
cheese and pepperoni…

I’m not ready to give up rocking
to Beggar’s Banquet, the best album
ever made. I treasure my baggy blue jeans,
my threadbare, Harvard sweatshirt.
I’m not willing to abandon
my second favorite place in the world:
the car cemetery next to the Super 8
where—for the once road-worthy—
time continues its remorseless interrogation.


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