Five Poems – Matt Mason


At Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin, 2004

	for Jarvis

the five-finger History lesson

on the struggle for Irish independence, with emphasis
on the 1916 Easter Rising and the role of this prison-made-museum, 

one man (and the Union Jack he’d been waving
a few seconds before)
was on the cold floor, another man,
knuckle bloodied, stood over him,

spat to the side. The Garda
bustled over,

cuffed the bastard
(the one
on the ground),

as they rushed him
the Hell

The Problem With Being a Parent

is you learn.
You learn a lot.
You learn so much
that you eventually think
you know things
about being a parent.

In this chapter,
you know so much
that you feel it is time
to branch out. Why
just share what you know
in your microcosmic household,
there are people out there
who don’t know what you know,
pregnant bellies you can poke,
glances you can throw,
headshakes worth sharing
as you watch other parents
fail. You
are like a prophet, preach:

Parents-To-Be, you’d better get out more now because, whoah, you’re gonna wish 
you had!
Parent-Of-The-Shrieking-Toddler, then don’t take him to Target at 9:45pm!

Now, in this next chapter,
this is not enough.
And nobody listens to you anyway,
they just continue
using chocolate as a bribe and
impregnating one another,
so go big or go home:

At the State Park, someone’s offspring has gathered around a robin’s nest on the 
it blew there, one egg shattered, one miraculously whole and the children wonder 
what to do.
You find this,
nod, stare into the tree
and tell that birdshit what a horrible parent she is,
come on, bird!
Secure your fucking nest!
And the rabbits, eyes shut, you find your dog trying to play with in the yard,
can you believe that shit? 
Their shelter half-ass dug under a tree, thin layer of rabbit fur as a goddamn security
Come on, Little Bunny Foo Foo!
The foot-long fawn sprawled next to the exit ramp,
so small you think it’s a toy at first, bright spots on its fur, Bambi’s mom
apparently gets what she deserves at the beginning of the movie, don’t she?

At this point, it only progresses, chapters flip by 
as you read Mother Goose and the Brothers Grimm, furious
how the father gets away so often
with selling out his kids, abusing them, leaving them
in forests, but gets rewarded in the end with gems and hugs, and

that Bible,
have you seen
the Father there?
All that He gets away with,
all that betrayal
we are beseeched to reward
with song 
and praise
and prayer?

At Sol’s Pawn Shop

what you wonder
here in the street bikes, lawn mowers, floor
strippers, air conditioners, leather
jackets, snowboards, hundred pound TVs from last century,
is why they pawned the guns.
The engagement rings?
That seems obvious;
VHS copy of Mighty Ducks 2
(with Emilio Estevez),
but these Rugers, Smith & Wesson,
pearl-handled pistol etched “Made in Brazil” in the black metal of the barrel?
Not to stereotype,
seems like it musta been
tough; like
or handgun. Never
what you expect, though,
a guy ain’t never seen an ocean;
or dude collects ‘em
when he’s done with the Army
but his boyfriend thinks it’s dangerous,
talks him
to sell ‘em
and start all over
with electric guitars;
ain’t nothing I’m buying;
the donut shop next door is closed,
I’m just here
killing time,
making up stories
that are all tragic
and all true.

–from a prompt in Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, Volume 3: Dream Country 

ceases to exist when she is gone.  Dark 
universe, cave, night, none of it sit still.  Ragged 
skin on you like a sweater; never 
heard the blood inside you before, screaming 
artery to vein through you, electric fire 
crackling nerve to nerve across each synapse, going kiss, 

going kiss, going kiss 
up the line, going kiss in the dark 
alleys of your spine, fire 
burn you ragged 
and inside out.  It’s the screaming 
of a dumpster-load of guts inside you, the clicks and cracks you never 

hear.  You say you never 
hear that part.  Just the kiss, 
just the zipper’s sigh.   If there were screaming, 
I’d call 911, you say; you say it is silent, dark, 
empty in your rind.  Ragged 
nerves go fire, 

go fire, go fire 
through your guts, never 
pause till they tell you, say: “Ragged 
brain, heart, blood eats each kiss, 
each lip-pumped rib-thump, dark- 
heart chest funk screaming 

love song, hate song, dance out loud, screaming 
drum beat, memory, everything is fire, 
drum beat, memory, everything is, is dark, 
is loud, loud, loud, is never 
enter silence, is deafening, kiss 
loud as jackhammer,” you, your ragged 

skin-shine, ragged hills, ragged 
palm-lines and emotion swells, screaming 
corpuscle to follicle, pucker to kiss; 
your foot, your hand crackle, fire 
curling you to smoke.  Never 
knew how loud.  How dark. 

How dark.  How dark, how ragged, 
how never, how screaming, 
how fire, how fire, how fire, how kiss. 

Natural History

You can argue with reality,
insist that this Wal-Mart surrounding you
has no right to exist, that this

was a concert venue bowling alley sand court volleyball bar,
that your journey to adulthood
has Historic-fucking-Landmark markers

right under that rack of $15 Classic Capri pants
(with easy comfort stretch), under those
tiki torches, People Magazines, bargain bin Magic Bullet blenders and

you might have a point. There is no authority,
now, able to undismantle the stage
you stood on next to Tortelvis himself at a Dread Zeppelin concert,

no zoning board to retroactively reclaim
the kiss so awkward
and so firework

that people should lay flowers at its feet every year
(and the red, white, and blue plastic bouquets piled nearby 
do not do it that justice).

But what can you do?
Some farmer probably had to let his tomato field and house
slip away for the Ranch Bowl you remember, mumbling

about the son born right over there, the spot
the phone hung where he took that call,
and before him,

the tribes who valued this high ground,
the buffalo, mammoths, velociraptors,
the sea shells coiled into rock here bitching

about that mother fucking tortoise
who kept nipping at its cephalopod.
Mother fucker.

About Matt Mason

Matt Mason has won a Pushcart Prize and two Nebraska Book Awards; was a Finalist for the position of Nebraska State Poet; organized and run poetry programming with the U.S. Department of State in Nepal, Botswana, and Belarus; and been on six teams at the National Poetry Slam. He’s been published in over 150 magazines and in Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry and on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’ Almanac. He is executive director of the Nebraska Writers Collective and is consultant for the Nebraska Arts Council with Nebraska’s Poetry Out Loud program. His most recent book, The Baby That Ate Cincinnati, was released in 2013. Matt lives in Omaha with his wife, the poet Sarah McKinstry-Brown, and daughters Sophia and Lucia. View all posts by Matt Mason

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