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.
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
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
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
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 Lucianmattison.com