Charles Kell

Twyckenham Notes
Issue Fourteen
Winter 2021-22

Iron Mike


In the basement after dinner,
I hadn’t said a word simply waiting for
my mother to pick me up,
thinking about how Mike’s dad reached across
the kitchen table and slapped his face
with a half-open palm, over some smart
remark, until blood bloomed his lips

and water gathered in the corner
of his blue eyes. We ate our steaks in silence.
“He worked in a slaughterhouse,” Mike whispered 
under the blacklight, “when he was nineteen, twenty, 
he’d lead them softly then slit their throats—
he told me these stories, how he’d watch their faces,
how their bodies would shake.”


I watch Mike kick Anthony in the head,
the ribs. It was about money or drugs, I forget.

Dull thud over and again. Red on boots, 
in the mud, on a white shirt. We stand around, do 

nothing. Mike’s little brother, Ryan, died a year 
ago, life-flighted, the doctor drilling holes 

to release the pressure caused by meth.
The fight lasts forever. The fight is over

in seconds. Mike stands bare-chested, sweaty, steam
rising from his shoulders. I want to hug

him, pull his body close to me. Back in the trailer,
in the dark living room, aluminum foil on the coffee 

table, a gun shines in the silver light breaking
in through the window.

CHARLES KELL is the author of Cage of Lit Glass, chosen by Kimiko Hahn for the 2018 Autumn House Press Poetry Prize. He teaches in Rhode Island.

Cover image by Dréa Collage
© Twyckenham Notes 2022. All rights reserved.