Akhmatova by Matthew Dickman

Poet Matthew Dickman reads "Akhmatova" from his latest collection, Mayakovsky's Revolver, published in October by Norton. 

 

Akhmatova

That’s right! Now I remember. I was on the beach
looking at Haystack Rock,
putting my finger into the mouths of sea anemones,
their tentacles sweeping over my knuckles, I was whispering
the word brother
to one, and the word sister to the other
though maybe they were both. I wanted to be close
to another species. I had been reading about the dark windows
Akhmatova looked through
to see if her son had been let out of prison. As I walked around
the shallow pools
feeling like I had done a good job being myself
I heard my third-grade teacher
whisper into my ear
what’s wrong with you? You want to be stupid your whole life?
She was a nun and wore, I imagined,
a rosary of barbed wire underneath her white blouse.
No matter how long I put my finger into the natural world,
no matter how often I mistake the flies
above the trash for stars, Akhmatova’s son will still be chained
against a wall, the sea will still push
against the rock, and a part of me will be sitting near
a window in homeroom, my head lowered, my skeleton warm
inside my body, my brothers and sisters alive in the salty pools of
the world.

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Bridge by Matthew Dickman

Poet Matthew Dickman reads "Bridge" from his latest collection, Mayakovsky's Revolver, published in October by Norton. 

Bridge

Before ever getting to the bridge, at the corner
near the park, two young girls
walk by eating burgers, a mouthful
falls from one of their mouths
and she looks at me, still walking, and says
watchoutyougonnastepinsomefoodyoufuckingfaggitharharhar—
I don’t know anyone
who would sleep with them, who would
pull their jeans down and lift
their tiny hairs with the tip of his
tongue. Who would want their ass
in his face or the smell of ketchup and pickles slipping into his
mouth. And I can’t imagine them
walking over the Hawthorne Bridge, the river
all dark and lit up
like a hero in a vampire novel, can’t imagine them
so sad, so torn apart, knowing themselves
enough, that they would
lift their heavy bodies over the rail, one
of their fake jeweled sandals
falling onto the walkway,
and fall into the water below, and breathe in, and turn down, and be
gone. When I stop and look over
I think I’m nervous because I’m worried
I’ll lose my glasses, the black
frames slipping off, all the gravity
making them jump, pushing down on them
like a hand on the back
of my neck, what I see: the food falling,
the dumb thumping of the girls
walking, the trees inhaling all night,
the houseboats blinking, all of it happening
on the other side of the lenses. My favorite bridge. My favorite part
of the walk home. This choice
I think I have. In a Christmas movie I like,
a man is standing
on the ledge, looking down into the water, thinking
about it, getting himself ready,
giving people time to talk him back
to earth. Time for an angel in a gray overcoat
and a face from the 1950s to stop him. When I lean over
I can feel the cars racing east behind me, no one
pulls the emergency
brake, no one leans on the horn.
Maybe the girls are passing
in a friend’s car, being eaten
up by burgers and flavored lipstick,
the two songs of death
that their bodies are, and maybe
one of them waves, or it looks like she’s waving
when she flicks a cigarette, like this, out the window and it falls
and keeps falling.

 

 

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In Heaven by Matthew Dickman

Poet Matthew Dickman reads "In Heaven" from his latest collection, Mayakovsky's Revolver, published in October by Norton. To hear more, check out Dickman reading "Akhmatova" and "Bridge." 

 

In Heaven

No dog chained to a spike in a yard of dying
grass like the dogs
I grew up with, starving, overfed, punched in the face
by children, no children, no firecrackers
slipped down the long throats of bottles in the first days of
summer,
no sky exploding, no blood, no bones
because we were the bones, no more Lord
my God, or maps made of fire, a small blaze burning
right where I grew up, so I could,
if I wanted to, point to the flame that was 82nd Avenue,
no milk in the fridge, no more walking through the street
to the little store
that sold butterfly knives, no more knives, no more honey
now that all the sweetness is gone, though we were the sweetness,
though we needed something
for our tongues, no more cheap soap, no more
washing our mouths out
because Motherfucker and because Fuck Off
came swimming out of us like fish from the Pacific Ocean,
no hummingbirds, no Band-Aids, no scraped knees
with the dirt and rock from the neighborhood
because we were the dirt,
no young mothers smoking cigarettes on the porch
while the sky got pretty
before night came on, though they were prettier
and the sky turned against them. No punk rock, no prom,
no cheap high heels left in the rain
in a parking lot, no empty bottles of wine coolers
because we were the empty bottles, no throwing them against the
wall
behind the school because we were the glass
that was shattering. No more looking toward the west, no east, no
north
or south, just us standing here together, asking each other
if we remember anything, what we loved, what loved us, who
yelled our names first?

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