If I Took Bullet, Would I Die?

By Julia Cirignano

Thank you to Button Poetry for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

I’m back and kicking off the new year with a review of Michael Lee’s debut collection of poetry The Only Worlds We Know. Right away from the title, it’s clear that Lee is going to question his perspective and reality, and therefore you will too.

Lee explores the human condition from his perspective. In the mist of raining bullets and clouded grief, he struggles with his most complicated demons, and together they learn to settle some things.

Throughout this collection, Lee covers a variety of topics. I was especially intrigued by his thoughts on addition. He talks about the addicts in his life, those dead and those still dying, and then talks about his own struggle with alcohol. By doing this, he covers two perspectives and gives his readers a 360 view of the situation. It’s clear that he has envisioned his own dead, and uses other people’s stories to heal himself.

Lee asks numerous questions, each simple enough to comprehend, yet complex enough to leave you stumped.

“How much liquor can the body hold

until the body leaves itself behind?”

Within the first poem of this collection, Lee gives us a vivid imagine of two lovers in bed together. He settles into this one moment just long enough before pulling us out and asking us a questions. This control over his readers is profound.

“you fall asleep & both awaken

to a gunshot in the dark — 

like a single string

in the instrument of night

had snapped — 

& she crawls into your arms 

for protection — but of course not the real kind,

because that bullet, if aimed at you,

what have gone though you both —

what does it mean when you realize

that all love is: a small & feeble sheather

from the inevitable?” 

Enjoy some of my favorite quotes and questions from The Only Worlds We Know,

“It was the year

I remembered and remembered and remembered,

the act of remembering like sharpening a blade until

the blade is gone.”


“what is indifference

if not a kind of violence we must each survive

but won’t.”


“The clock is a more complicated machine than the gun.”



though it is final, is also hesitant and unsure.” 


“Everyone wants

us to spill poetically, in a way

that goes down easy–“

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