Mathias Nelson



My brother complains
that his wife cheats on him
and dresses him
like a fag.

He’s smoked
so many cigarettes
that they’ve prescribed him
plastic ones.

Last night, by mistake,
at 3a.m. he sent me this
text message:

U don’t know shit
about me fucken
my wife was a big
mistake. Big
mistake. I WILL

And now, while we sit around a campfire,
his son drags over a branch, drops it
quickly out of fright and
wipes little bugs off his forearms.

Throw it in the fire, my brother says.

But there’s bugs on it, his son says.

So what? They’re just bugs, my brother says.

Carefully, with just his fingertips,
his son picks up the branch and holds it outward
then tosses it into the fire,
sending out a storm of sparks
that momentarily light our eyes like fireflies.

The bugs on the branch
pop, smoke, and sizzle
like small, insignificant things
burning alive, music
when I say, You just lost
your right to
complain of
God, God, God, God, God




Donovan was a childhood friend,
the kid from grade school
who comes to your 7th birthday party
and eats McDonalds with you.

He had short brown hair cut with a bowl
and was funny lookin’ with freckles.

I went to his house once and
only once.
His mother wouldn’t let us play
with G-I Joes.
Deemed them immoral
and me immoral
for having plastic on plastic
slaughter fests.

She only let us play with firetrucks
and policemen with no guns,
whew whew whew whew.

But when Donovan grew up
he became a sniper in the Iraq war.

who knows what
how many times.

And when he came home
he took his own life
who knows how.

His grainy smile stares back at me now
inked within the newspaper,
still the goofy lookin’ kid
I once knew
sort of.

By crinkling the paper
I can make the lower half of his face move
up and down so as to speak

“What’s        the        mor-      al       now,      Ma?”


MATHIAS NELSON‘s first full-length poetry collection Dip My Pacifier in Whiskey is available through New York Quarterly Books.


Read more by Mathias Nelson:

Dip My Pacifier in Whiskey
New York Quarterly