Four Poems

Lucian Mattison

Dino DNA


I want to emulate the timbre 

            of Newman’s squeal, 

how a can of Barbasol 

            triggers desire to clone millions 

of years in a single sound. 

            Is this the contemporary 

poet—goat tethered to a pole,

            idea of Tyrannosaurus 

lurking in a static rainforest?


            At my best, I’m Dr. Ian Malcolm 

dipping his finger in a plastic cup.

            I drip beads onto a woman’s hand, 

whisper a theory for this falling 

            water into her ear, everything 

tumbling away from the tip 

            of her knuckle. 


But most days, acting the scholar 

            seems as if it’s only a matter 

of sticking around long enough 

            to be suffocated 

in the resin of a tree. 

            I need a drop of blood, 

blueprint to build a living thing, 

            frog DNA to fill in the holes. 


As far as I can remember, 

            I have been trying to clone 

everyone that has come 

            before me, let the lawyer inside 

perish in the mouth 

            of a lizard—me, the toilet 

that collects storm water, 

            palm fronds in a pile around me.


The world continues to wave 

            a stick in the face 

of an indifferent reptile, 

            asks it to fetch. I’m told, No 

wonder you’re extinct, as my teeth 

            are pushed out by those 

of a crocodile, my open frill 

            a night bloom amid the chaos.



Dirty Kitchen


Show me a man who lives alone and has a perpetually clean kitchen, 

and 8 out of 9 times I'll show you a man with detestable spiritual qualities. 


                        –– Charles Bukowski


Every once in a while, you agree 

with this tried and true 

ass hat, same guy that wrote

The Fuck Machine and All the Pussy

We Want—stories that crawl

across a filthy stovetop— 


And in them you see 

a dynamic record of how 

you nurture yourself,

the pieces of the meal 

never touched, finding ways 

into the matter that sits 

below the metal grills. 


So much has just slipped 

out of memory because 

you can’t nail down exactly

what it means to refuse 

looking at a disfigured past, 

this knife edge upon which  

everything you’ve known 

is balanced. 


You let your stove collect 

layers of what has been 

and never was yours, 

at once: flecks 

of chili oil, seeded tomato 

pulp, charred spinach leaves—

a shrimp antenna curls 

out of crusted over 

patches, Melted 

to the metal, it points

upward as if in reverence


You try to pick Bukowski 

like corn silk from your teeth, 

thread him with this other 

stringy piece of crustacean

to make a stylus, two 

seemingly similar things

from opposite worlds. 


Dipping this odd rigger brush 

into a cup of vinegar, 

you begin to sign your name

along the stovetop, 

wipe away a negative image

of the letters, and for a moment,

you feel like him—

how you’ve tasted 

all of it you’ll ever want, 

your body this fucked machine

somehow still upright.  





The reason he likes coming inside her

is the same reason he drinks—call it desperate,


adolescent, but filling the tip of a condom

is as close as he’ll get to having them.


Pulling the latex away, he still feels her

heat on his skin, an idea going cold,


how infertility found him by choice; no ghost

of a fluid clung to the walls of a sample cup, 


but by a woman who has never known 

any man to be raised right. He is witness 


to his lineage held out in front of him, 

two closed fists, and this woman asks him 


to choose the correct one. Left hand tapped, 

opened empty, he cannot bear to ask her 


to reveal the other. It’s closed so tight,

it couldn’t possibly keep anything inside.



A Sea Nettle Washes Up


Your image is beached 

on my temporal lobe.


I am up to my waist 

in the ocean, the strings of your lappets 

sending vibrations through the water 


as I wade in the current, 

and briskly retreat at the thought 

of wrapping myself with your body.






You cannot pull your eyes away 

from the bell jar of my head, 

the meters of tentacle 

reaching back toward the ocean.


In the open air, I’m a deflated object.

A corona of sea foam clings to my hood

like rope tethering a float.


I only weigh as much as the seawater 

that you pour into my head.






Sitting side by side, we talk about the Pacific 

sea nettle beached feet from us.

We pluck wet fronds from kelp stipes 

and bind one another’s legs.


I hear my spirit rattle in your head,

a previous version of me knocking.


Your nude figure rolls 

along the inside of my skull 

like the tongue of a bell. 






In one version of this, it is much later.

We are both sea nettles

washed up on shore. 


Your body is carried someplace else

limp in a gull’s beak. 


I am a memory strewn 

in gelatinous pieces along the coast.






This morning, I could see 

how I partitioned the idea of us

into dumb objects, so as not to see 


a broken whole. Whitewater 

tumbles at my feet, 

lifts the receding idea of you into silt murk.


It all begins to disappear: ankle deep 

on a sandbar, hundreds of feet 

offshore, you ask me to step toward you, 

and I do.


 About the Writer
Split Lip Magazine

Lucian Mattison is the author of Peregrine Nation (The Broadkill River Press, 2014). His work appears in The Bitter Oleander, The Boiler, Everyday Genius, Hobart, Muzzle Magazine, and Spork, among other journals. He is an associate editor for Big Lucks and a poetry editor for Green Briar Review. Read more at