Wednesday, February 2, 2011

hard scratch


it begins under your skin
where muscle meets bone

where the elbow attaches to the fist
bone where the fist bone attaches

to the jaw bone it begins under
your skin this itch like a chigger bite

begins so small but burns as you claw-cut
it open you prefer the seeping

wound to the craving that settles
deep and seeps from your veins

infiltrates your brain and burns
your skin your darkness


You were born in dirt
and dirt you’ve become

what sheds from the dirty mat
in front of the kitchen door is you

you’ve lived here for fourteen years,
kept it neat, swept it clean of lies

and bad living never having
stepped out of bounds

beneath your fingernails is dug earth
bread you shaped from clay the cakes

from mud there’s nothing to lose nothing
to prove nowhere to go but up from dirt


through the screen door
you can see a tire hung

by rope too heavy to sway just
hangs there dead suspended from a pine

beyond the chain-link there’s a field
and then the highway where cars

suddenly appear and speed away
too fast going only god knows where


you check the deadbolt and almost
lock it but there’s that itch again

in your fingertips it takes a single turn
to hear it click and the doorknob twists

the screen door flies open
bat-out-of-hell the itch is in your feet now

crawls up your bare legs as
the field weeds and thorn bushes

scratch and cut your skin
and then there’s only the expanse

of the sky and all those moving cars
buzzing in your brain I won’t

I won’t look back at the rectangular
darkness where you remember a gaping

mouth, vertical shadow, and fisted desire
itching your hand your extended

thumb stops a car which stops
your heartbeat for half a second when

everything moves into the morning
sun glinting off of glass you almost

out of habit scratch your breast
and roll down the window instead

the wind cooling your skin
blowing the dirt right off.

© Ami Mattison, 2011

For One Stop Poetry's One Shot Wednesday


  1. have a wonderful style of story real and descriptive...dont look back...

  2. Well there's nothing to lose and nothing to prove and I'm dancing with myself oh oh oh oh

    Oops, let me turn down the Donnas.

    I've felt this itch. All my life til I bolted. I love the way this poem builds. Go, roadrunner!

  3. Hard hitting and stirring. An onslaught of imagery in a very well told, moving narrative poem. I know I've said it before, would love to hear you read one to discover how the language bends with your chosen cadence. :)Cheers

  4. I agree with Dustus, I have listened to your Anti-love reading and I would love to hear you read this one. Your poems are a such a treat!


  5. Long but unstoppable, where every word counts in a steadily building tension til I was wanting to run out the screendoor scratching (into a snowdrift.) You've got the feel of the land and the people in this, and some unforgettable lines->"...from mud there’s nothing to lose nothing/ to prove nowhere to go but up from dirt..."

  6. This poem of self-liberation is utterly fabulous, Ami. Stunning-- tre stunning: these lines so carve into me on this cold Colorado morning:

    "..begins so small but burns as you claw-cut
    it open you prefer the seeping

    wound to the craving that settles
    deep and seeps from your veins

    infiltrates your brain and burns
    your skin your darkness"-

    do you know Tess Gallagher's poem about getting her hair shaved off-- the intensity and compression of the imagery reminds me of her exactitude...xxxxj

  7. Wonderful working from piece to piece and the final good-bye to dirt and chiggers and everything...that we take with us even as we leave it all reminds me when I left the farm many years ago...though I did not run away- the liberation was the I never did return....nice work Ami....bkm

  8. Beautiful imagery.

  9. enjoyed the suspense relating to the indecisiveness within her heart

  10. Fabulous poem, Ami. There's an urgency in the cadence; the poem's tight and well-controlled; the narrative beautifully executed.

  11. A lot of good images here. The first section could maybe be pared down slightly because it's a bit slow, but the movement of the poem as a whole is good. Well done.

  12. Strong images, pulling, the yearning burns... leading on, searching the expanse, trying to quelch the unending burn.

    Wonderfully written.

  13. Great tone, flow, line breaks, etc. Focused, impressive work.