Michael Hammerle, “Work Clothes”

Michael Hammerle is pursuing his MFA at the University of Arkansas at Monticello, where he teaches composition. He holds a BA in English from the University of Florida. He is the founder of Middle House Review. His fiction has been published in The Best Small Fictions 2017, selected by Amy Hempel. His prose and poetry have been published in Split Lip Magazine, New World Writing, Louisiana Literature, After the Pause, and many more magazines. He lives and writes in Gainesville, FL.

orange line

Work Clothes

Don’t judge anyone
by the shirt. On their back
could be the weight
of their family’s well

Don’t judge anyone by
the cuts on their


their leaning

which leans because their dogs
have dug a cave
under one corner,

a man had kneeled
next to his crisscross-sitting wife.

A vibration
squeezed its way through
a thin glass window.

The vibration carried
a well-child’s cry
and found its intendant
between the pool and the leaning shed.


A man held
his enduring wife’s
and she said Don’t
in the bathroom.

In the lap of her dress
was braided grass.


She had quilled
a small circle bare
had not seen

a clay flip-flop key chain in the dirt
barely uncovered.

The man fixated on the flip-flop
and imagined when it was modeling clay:
an inscription
carved by a daycare worker,
or an exceptional child,
captured the child’s will.

The man imagined if he held the keychain,
when it was freshly calcined,
his thumb could brush the words
(it was so real) those little ridges
they felt
like lizard teeth,
or pikes
on a Medieval crown,
and straddled the outline of a well-child’s words.


He brought buckets of pool water to their door.
The time: night rain. The grass was gauze
tied tight in a bag next to an empty pail.
Hurricane bands beating, like a tuning fork,
on the side of a hot house in need of power.





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