Michael Hammerle

Step-Dad Summers Buried Brothers Under the Bog

Adolescence made a face hittable,
ribs so dig-able, to our step father
because my brother and I didn’t belong
to anyone. We couldn’t equal
the other child that never lived here.
We stayed away from Phillip
hidden among bald cypress,
water dried, and the land filled with dirt,
created tracks for buggies, Pop sent.

Abandoned construction site
obstacles, like concrete tubes, doubled
as a place to skate, or put a hole in the pocosin
hillside for Drano bombs,
trick learned from the swamp motel’s handy man.
Bulbs lit up the backbox of the pinball machine
like a vanity and I could see
when my mom would visit him.
He had an office in the game room.
Phillip resented everything the handy man taught us.

For longer than not when I look at Ma, Pop, and Gram
They see what it took to make hunks of peat turn coal.


The tallest building in the city
a hospital—and my Pop
couriered room to room—
I took in the views
wondering suicide or accident
if the window locks failed.

Michael Hammerle, MFA, teaches writing at two Florida colleges. He is the founder of Middle House Review. His work has been published in The Best Small Fictions, Split Lip Magazine, Michigan State University Short Edition, New World Writing, Louisiana Literature, Hobart After Dark, Maudlin House, and elsewhere.