On the Fifth Floor

Here are a few short poems writen the last few days, while I’ve been in the hospital for treatment of acute kidney dyfunction related to my cancer.  New Years Day in the hospital.  I should be going home tomorrow.


The Fifth Floor


On the fifth floor

amidst the sick and dying

the sounds of a lullaby.

In the nursery

a new life

enters the world.



On the fifth floor

no sleep all night.

6AM, anticipating the sunrise

as the town wakes

over the prairie, the sun

mountains painted in glorious shades of red.



I love this world

its friends and loved ones, beasts, joys and heartaches

I would give so much

for another year of sunrises

one more year

to trod upon the earth.

The sun peaks over the prairie hills

Oh, God

Oh, God!


On another note, check out my publications page.  I’m on Paypal now and offering free shipping.  The free shippin also applies if you want to send a good old check or cash.

Be well and have a good New Year.  Raise a toast to all the world’s poets, lovers and holy fools.



16 thoughts on “On the Fifth Floor

  1. Michael, keep writing….. It’s good for me to cry while reading. Your work is always so powerful and I hope the power of healing can match it. Hugs.

  2. hospitalized a few years ago for irregular heartbeat, first floor, mid-winter’s day, Las Vegas, NM, IV’s everywhere, nurses warm & efficient, felt persecuted like cleveland poet d.a. levy, wanted to play in the snow, another year of drought, I knew I would have to change my life somewhat, less urgency, less immoderation, more silence, more inviting life deep inside instead of burning it out.
    keep strong, Miguel. am thinking of you old buddy.

  3. Hi Mike,

    An Excellent poem. Really like your perspective on life. You have such a great positive attitude. You are winning – it just takes some time; and you already know what time now means. Take good care. Mark M>

  4. Hi Mike, Karen said you back in. Damn! You poems are so Japanese in tone, your feelings coming out of the simple description of what is before you.

    In answer to your question, I haven’t had anything like what you’ve been going thru, but when I was a grad student in Japan I came down with MS and went blind in one eye (a more than ironic hit on a grad student trying to read all day). The next year I went numb in my legs. Being naturally a slow learner, I said to myself, I’d better change my priorities and way of living, and cut down on the stress. From then on, my whole focus was on being as creative as I could be, and not giving the institutions in my life the time of day. From this experience comes the weird guy you see hanging around the poetry world.

    Anyway, I hope you get better quickly and return to our common hangouts.
    My best, ran

  5. Thank you all for your comments. Back into the hospital tomorrow, my doc says maybe three weeks. Here is to all the strong and beautiful nurses.

    I hope more poems are composting in the heat at the bottom of the pile.

  6. Mike, I’m sending you serious energy to keep healing and to find new poems “at the bottom of the compost heap.” Poems as lovely and authentic as “On the Fifth Floor.” What a real poem. It strikes me that the poems you’ve written about others facing tough odds (steel workers from PA for example) have earned you the right to recognize and send out to us poems about your own human struggle. Keep us posted about your progress these next seven days . . . and beyond.

    Pulling for you —

    Rita Kiefer

  7. Rita,
    No misquote on the poems composting. I was thinking of a Gary Snyder poem from, I believe, Axe Handles, about stirring the compost and bringing up poems. I don’t have my Snyder with me here in the hospital. Does anyone know the poem?

    • Mike,
      I am so sorry to hear you are sick and sorry you are in the hospital. Sending you healing energy and wishes for a pain-free recovery. A speedy one at that!

      A hospital is a universe unto itself. I’m glad to see you are mining it for gold like this poem. Or maybe, more accurately, you are bringing gold to an odd (and sometimes, as in your first stanza, and oddly beautiful) place. I hope those strong nurses know how lucky they are to be tending to you!

      I found a link to the Snyder poem, “On Top.” Perfect image for your situation. It’s in with a few others on this page, enjoy and be well. All of us are praying for you and sending you good good healing energy!

      Sandy McRae (from way back in the Poets Against the War days….tho of course, we’re still against it)

  8. Dear Michael!

    Through the holidays I was thinking of you, reading
    “If You Can Still Dance With It”
    and trying to figure out a way of treatment that might be more helpful to you.
    But now you will be in treatment for 3 weeks so,
    to quote you “Keep on Keeping and be strong”

    Strong and good thoughts and prayers going your and Claire’s way

  9. you be talking “On Top”, stonebelly. and keep writing your way home…

    All this new stuff goes on top
    turn it over, turn it over
    wait and water down
    from the dark bottom
    turn it inside out
    let it spread through
    Sift down even.
    Watch it sprout.

    A mind like compost.

  10. Thank you to Art and Sandra for the Snyder poem, On Top. A poem I truly love and that is absolutely true.
    Turn it over
    turn it over
    Whatever we have is what we work with.

  11. I Saw Myself

    I saw myself
    a ring of bone
    in the clear stream
    of all of it

    and vowed
    always to be open to it
    that all of it
    might flow through

    and then heard
    “ring of bone” where
    ring is what a

    bell does

    Lew Welch

    always liked that one by Lew.


    • Hello Mike, how are you doing…you wrote a nice poem exactly a month ago today..I am glad to have read it..
      Maybe you have heard about me from Claire-she was my penpal since we were 10 years old.
      I hope you will keep on writing poems…I will read them..and
      tonight and everynight I will say a prayer for you!!!

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