Zohydro [Honorable Mention, 2015 Norton Girault Prize]

by Kelly Michels


In a few weeks, a powerful new opioid painkiller called Zohydro is expected to hit the market. Zohydro’s easily crushed capsules will contain up to 50 milligrams of pure hydrocodone; that’s 10 times more hydrocodone than a regular Vicodin. One capsule will pack enough hydrocodone to kill a child.”
-Huffington Post  February 26, 2014


A billboard glows like a full moon,
pulling everything towards it, streetlights
and housewives, news clippings
and powerlines, grocery bags floating,
collapsing like stars in front of us, raspberry
angel dust, the scattering of moonrock.
The Dow rises like black balloons into
the spider blue stratosphere, claiming
salvation, claiming never again and
everything, the second coming, the end
of suffering, an all-american miracle
dressed in paradise white, as a galaxy
of fireflies dip their toes into the dark throat
of the earth and thousands wait in line
to have their teeth pulled, each one
with the look of a small child
standing in the doorway of night.


About “Zohydro” Judge Natalie Diaz said: This poems reminds me of reading Dennis Johnson. It feels like a prayer to our dysfunction, to ways we burn ourselves down. Even the pace of the poem is addictive—it hooks into us and drags us down the page, bright white image after bright white image, in much the same way our lives drag us down into the world, or the world drags us down into our lives. We are glowed with all the references of light: full moon, streetlights, grocery bags floating, collapsing stars, angel dust, scattering moonrock, the toes of fireflies, and pulled teeth. At the end of this poem, we are gasping for air, we are small. All-american is not heroic, instead, it is a condition of the worst kind.



Kelly Michels grew up in Virginia Beach, VA. She received her M.A. from George Mason University and her M.F.A. from North Carolina State University where she received the Academy of American Poets Prize. Her work has been featured in Best New Poets 2012, Nimrod, Green Mountains Review, Reed, Ruminate, Redivider, Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, among others. She is the author of Mother and Child with Flowers, a chapbook from Finishing Line Press (2013) and Disquiet, a chapbook from Jacar Press (2015). She currently lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.