Matthew Dickman | 2 Poems


Minimum Wage

My mother and I are on the front porch lighting each other’s cigarettes

as if we were on a ten-minute break from our jobs

at being a mother and son, just ten minutes

to steal a moment of freedom before clocking back in, before

putting the aprons back on, the paper hats,

washing our hands twice and then standing

behind the counter again,

hoping for tips, hoping the customers

will be nice, will say some kind word, the cool

front yard before us and the dogs

in the backyard shitting on everything.

We are hunched over, two extras on the set of The Night of the Hunter.

I am pulling a second cigarette out of the pack, a swimmer

rising from a pool of other swimmers. Soon we will go back

inside and sit in the yellow kitchen and drink

the rest of the coffee

and what is coming to kill us will pour milk

into mine and sugar into hers.


Black Lipstick

My little sister is sneaking her friends out the backdoor of a bar

because the men in there won’t stop touching them

and the people in the bar

won’t stop the men and the men keep ordering sweet

drinks they think the women will like but they don’t want them.

All they want to do is leave and live.

When I get out of the shower and look in the mirror I say to myself

you should go to the gym, you should lose weight, be more

handsome. People who rape

other people have bodies like mine, people who hate their wives

and daughters. They hate them and go to the bar

and drink too much and touch people who do not want to be touched.

I don’t know.

I miss being young and going out in eyeliner and skirts. I miss

wearing black lipstick. Fucking boys

and girls was the best. It felt like drinking iced Americanos

on the roof of the roof of the world. From there you were safe, you could

smoke clove cigarettes with your friends.

You could throw rocks at the men down below, walking down the street

with their brains in one hand and their hearts in another,

a parade of terrible potential, while their mothers stand along the sidewalk

clapping and cheering, waving

baby-blue handkerchiefs in the cold air.

*"Minimum Wage" was originally published in The New Yorker in 2015. "Black Days" originally appeared as part of an art exhibition curated by Rita Vitorelli for Spike Magazine, Berlin, 2016.

MATTHEW DICKMAN is the author of two full length collections, All American Poem, which won the 2008 American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize in Poetry, and Mayakovsky's Revolver (W.W. Norton & Co, 2012); and co-author, with Michael Dickman, of 50 American Plays (Copper Canyon, 2012), and Brother (Faber & Faber, 2016). He is also the author of four chapbooks: 24 Hours (Poor Claudia, Portland & onestar press, Paris, 2014), Wish You Were Here (Spork Press, 2013), Amigos (Q Ave. Press, 2007), and Something About a Black Scarf (Azul Press, 2008). His third book, Wonderland, will be released by Norton in 2018. Currently, Matthew teaches in the Vermont College of Fine Arts low-residency MFA program and writes advertisements for a living. He lives in Portland with his partner and two children.