Two Poems by Michael T. Young

The Problem with Keeping Score

Road trips, drinks with friends, long walks
through woods, through cities.
It’s impossible to know how it all adds up.

Or what the losses will take. Maybe
that’s why we like games. They’re simple:
someone wins, someone loses

and there are numbers to prove it.
But you can’t score how morning light
dances around the rims of the eyes

you’ve fallen in love with, or the beauty
of rain multiplying clouds down the street,
how it is an unaccountable mercy

to have run even once through those baptisms
and come out the other end full of such joy,
you let the other guy win just to see him smile.


Middle Passage

“At this moment, I saw more clearly than ever
the brutalizing effects of slavery upon slave and
—Frederick Douglass

Tracts of coral reef snaking under the waves,
the uncharted trails of seals and seabirds
are histories written in currents of erasure.
Yet they’ve endured longer than our books.
We have founded currencies on their shells,
industries of slavery that have come and gone
and come again, because the human story
rises like a tide of persistent calcifying spaces.
Gulls cry across those vacancies, scanning
for life in the waves, tucked within
the momentary voids, searching for that heart
before it falls like marine snow, down through
fathoms of water, and into a darkness so deep
there is no human name by which to call it.


Michael T. Young’s third full-length collection, The Infinite Doctrine of Water, was longlisted for the Julie Suk Award. His previous collections are The Beautiful Moment of Being Lost and Transcriptions of Daylight. He received a Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. His chapbook, Living in the Counterpoint, received the Jean Pedrick Chapbook Award. He received honorable mention for the NJ Poets Prize for 2022 from The Journal of New Jersey Poets. His poetry has been featured on Verse Daily and The Writer’s Almanac. It has also appeared in numerous journals including Pinyon, River Heron Review, Talking River Review, and Vox Populi.