Monday, January 24, 2011

cracked open

crack open her heart and pour the thickened

liquid in a cup so I might sip on sadness pluck

dandelions from her hair scatter and wish her to the wind

finger the fine bones her inner ear vibrating silence

between us the stubborn bud bulldozed and paved

still finds a way to grow in cracked cemented spaces

push its head upwards towards the sun a single syllable

undone our words are final threads of an ancient quilt

exposed to air shredding there is there is there love

there the sky contracts expands at the whim of clouds

she parts and breaks a storm wets the east the south

the north the west of me I sip half empty her cracked open

©Ami Mattison, 2011

Previously published in The Maple Tree Literary Supplement, Issue 7, August 2010.

Flickr photo courtesy of GMA Lou

Sunday, January 23, 2011

When she works

When she works
      she calculates
precisely how much she’ll charge
for tilting back her head just so and
kissing the smoke. How much

depends upon how heavy the half-empty glass
in her hand, how many times she must
suck the cigar, and how delicately she holds
it between two fingers and her thumb.

She knows by how long he stares
exactly what she’s worth, and she deducts
how much it cost to slither into the strapless,
yellow gown she bought on sale, to highlight

her hair as if it were sun-kissed, to paint
her lips the perfect shade of pink to compliment
her pale skin. Flawlessness is expensive.

But the big bucks rely on her stillness,
on how many minutes she can hold the pose.

It’s harder than you might think, which is why
she does the math, counts the minutes and the number
of times he blinks his camera-shudder eyes.

Wait for it, she thinks. Wait for it.

Perfect, baby. Perfect.

And there it is: the cash register’s ring.

Later, she’ll unwind—wash her hair,
do some laundry, sit in front of the TV,
balance her budget, and let curve
the barest hint of a smile.

©Ami Mattison, 2011

Photo courtesy of Mike Roemer.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Anti-Love Poem

Don’t talk to me about love.

These words, I love you,
like stale, hard, heart-shaped
confections, boxed in pale,
pink-colored cardboard,
sicken me now.

These dusty, Hallmark card sentiments—
You’re my favorite,
My one and only,
Be mine,
I love you forever
crumble with age
to thin, unforgiving pieces.

No, I don’t want your box
of chocolates or pretty flowers,
your candlelit dinners, your clich├ęd poems,
your undying devotion, wrapped
in small, pitiful ribbons.

Thursday, January 20, 2011



We crisscrossed the country
twice, stitching together a geography of home
from back roads and interstates,
and those mile markers between us.  

Along the avenues of Philadelphia, we were two
palms pressed together, fondling
renegade freedom in the cracks between
what we'd been and who we'd become.

We were intrepid, traveling winding two tracks
up a mountain’s steepest slope, until
we slid into a snowdrift, and
let loose our fear with laughter.

Atop the world, we were gorgeous, flinging
desire over crested hills into the fertile valley where
we imagined a hearth of stone and fire
and the fields we might unearth one day.

I had never been so in love.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Confess Nothing

Confess nothing

    when they ask
where you’ve been. How could they know

that alley where rats scuttled, moon-lit
among broken beer bottles and the stink
of dumpstered lives. How could they know

the metallic taste on your tongue
when he stuck the gun in and said,
suck or die. How could you possibly

tell them how you ripped red
from his unshaven cheek, shoved
kneecap to groin so he groaned,
and he hammered his fist in rhythm with
your hammering heart, left
you curled and curdled among the rot.

Confess nothing when they ask for it—
some description of his face, the color
of his jacket. How could you say

you had danced in his arms beneath fake stars.

Confess nothing then, when they shake their heads
and persist and insist and say you’re safe
when you know you are not. You are not.

Only later, when we sit in moonlight and years
have dusted your memory and beneath your hairline
the hidden wound has closed and become a scar,
unasked, you will say, I knew his name.

And you will tell me the fake stars and the alley
and you will say, I opened myself to it.

And I will try to convince you otherwise,
but you will shake your head,
press your lips together to confess
nothing of your innocence.

©Ami Mattison, 2011

Flickr photo courtesy of dcJohn

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Defense

Begin with the slash of her
scabbed lips.

Notice the negative space
her cheekbone, its blaze.
Now, look into the pupil,
squinting from swollen lids,
rainbow of a bruise beneath
her lashes where
a curled hand hit home.

She is somebody’s home.

She flaunts it,
juts a cut chin when
stranger’s gawk,
stares back.

The doctor,
the cops,
the social worker—
they say she’s got to press charges.

Why would I do that? 

And the slash curls.
You should see him.

Flickr photo courtesy of Alice Popkorn

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Family Car

In the backyard, the rusted red Mustang
is propped on cinderblocks, wheels missing.
Daddy swears he’ll fix it, have himself a sports car.

Mama suns on its roof. Her body oiled
with cooking grease, she boils and burns.

Before the yellow-jackets take over the passenger’s seat,
my brothers and me pretend to drive it too fast
along those red clay roads, open it up on
Highway 65 towards Birmingham,
roll down the windows, turn up the radio, all of us
swigging co-colas, getting high on moonpies
and letting that Alabama landscape slide
right off our backs.

Otherwise, the car just sits among the weeds, until
we move to an apartment without a backyard,
and Daddy calls the junk man.

The three of us balance on the chain-link fence,
sip on Kool-Aid from Dixie Cups, and watch
our get-away car ramble down the road.