Wednesday, 11 April 2018


Jenny Mahoney

by Matt Dennison


There's a bird spine in my tongue, dear—
you should know this—bristling from root
to tip. I think it wants to fly, or sing,
but it hurts me with its thrusting.
Or maybe it's an eel spine, flat
on the cutting board, flapping its ribs
in the Protestant squeaks of my
dead mother's tongue.
You can't hear it but it deafens me.
Either way, a horse pulled a rock
from the Widow Murphy's farm yesterday.
Did you hear? No? Of course all the men
helped, the sweat of themselves running
like tadpoles over sun rocks, pushing,
pushing so hard. I imagine they died
in a mountain of themselves afterward
and were glad for it. I know I would've.
What would you like for breakfast, Macree?
Slam whiskey? I'll pour, but don't watch.
They've been slurred, these piano-hands,
now old-woman graspy hands. Not one
muscle on a string-bone left, I'm afraid.
I'd play if I could. You used to like it,
but it's hard playing with life being lived
when I see it and I do, whereas visiting
those tombs you despise on a Sunday
puts me in continuum, the black paper
of my birth certificate polished, ordained.
Here! Look! For the first time I know who
my father was! That ragged little bastard
I adored with the precision of a corpse!
He fed me, clothed me, bought me shoes—
himself a poor man! Called me his twelve-cent
chicken painted till it weighed forty pounds
then plucked me and set me free. Two reasons
he had: slaughter horses to contain the wiggle
of my mother or smoke muscles to improve
the curse of life's meaning. All our favorite
bills are due. I'd liked to have been a rich baby,
fed butter and cream. Sin to admit, for it would be
eccentric of the innocent to admit their crimes.
I would like still to be a rich baby. Worse to admit.
I've been thinking about our future and the baby's.
I've decided both should be yellow.


* * * * *

After a rather extended and varied second childhood in New Orleans, Matt Dennison’s 
work has appeared in Rattle, Bayou Magazine, Redivider, Natural Bridge, The Spoon 
River Poetry Review and Cider Press Review, among others. He has also made short
films with Michael DickesSwoonand Marie Craven.