Matthew Dickman | 2 Poems
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.
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.