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lucian mattison


Taking Death as a Lover


He says the physics
baffle him, but that’s precisely
what makes it so hot.
Death is the type of lover
you fuck standing up.
We were spot on
about how its cloaked nothingness
can only hover as if inflated,
its breath a head of cold wind
in the grip of a cinched hood.
He says sex with Death
is like ducking below
the crest of a wave,
letting the cold wash over him
as he blindly thrusts,
attempting to penetrate
the cowl of absence,
shroud enveloping his body.
Death calls its brittle
orgasms “little deaths,”
and the seconds before
it cries, We’re dying!
We’re dying! He confirms, it’s true,
it’s actually like dying
or heroin,
but as far as he can tell,
he’s coming into a towel.
He says because of Death’s
whole “situation,” they can’t share
tender moments—no kiss
on the neck as he washes
dishes, no love making
atop an open map,
Shenandoah spread like sheets—
Death just asks that he carry
its bundled bones
against his chest. Palms up,
gentle cup around the clack
of its light weight,
he says holding Death
is like hugging a burlap sack
of limp ibis.
Death is too old to walk for itself,
but loves to go to the beach
to “take it all in.”
Most days, at first light,
he pulls Death’s skull out
at the shore, kisses
the polished marble, and points
the dark sockets out
toward the sea foam.



Good Son


Pull out his tongue,
clip the molluskan

base, chewed bubble
gum, bologna sandwiched

between thumb and
forefinger. Sewing the wet

muscle onto my tongue,
trace the back

sides of teeth, cheek
walls, taste years

of someone else’s spit,
my mother’s, an altar

cup of sacramental
wine, navy ship

departing harbor—salt
spray pools in the mouth.

I can hardly breathe,
tongues are so large.

I don’t eat shad roe,  
speak drawl and spit.

Mother is prying
my mouth open,

sees the second
tongue for a second,

grabs a hold of it,
before it slips back

inside my mouth.
She won’t let me look

away, clutching my chin
between her thumb

and four fingers.
She wants me

to spit it out,
but it’s already done.




Lucian Mattison photo.jpg



Lucian Mattison's first full-length collection, Peregrine Nation (The Broadkill River Press, 2014) won the 2014 Dogfish Head Poetry Prize. His work appears in The Boiler, Everyday Genius, Hobart, Muzzle, Spork, and The Valparaiso Poetry Review, among other journals. He is an associate editor for Big Lucks and received his MFA from Old Dominion University. To read more visit lucianmattison.com