for matthew z and matthew r
I remember telling the joke about child molestation and seeing the face of the young man I didn't know well enough turn from something with light inside of it into something like an animal that's had its brain bashed in, something like that, some sky inside him breaking all over the table and the beers. It's amazing, finding out my thoughtlessness has no bounds, is no match for any barbarian, that it runs wild and hard like the Mississippi. No, the Rio Grande. No, the Columbia. A great river of thorns and when this stranger stood up and muttered something about a cigarette, the Hazmat team in my chest begins to cordon off my heart, glowing a toxic yellow, and all I could think about was the punch line "sexy kids," that was it, "sexy kids," and all the children I've cared for, wiping their noses, rocking them to sleep, all the nieces and nephews I love, and how no one ever opened me up like a can of soup in the second grade, the man now standing on the sidewalk, smoke smothering his body, a ghost unable to hold his wrists down or make a sound like a large knee in between two small knees, but terrifying and horrible all the same.
Copyright © 2011 by Matthew Dickman. Used with permission of the author.
Matthew Dickman’s most recent poetry collection is Wonderland (W. W. Norton, 2018). He lives in Portland, Oregon.
Date Published: 2011-09-20
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/ghost-story