Mathias Nelson


I insulted him.
He looked like a crazy Italian fish.
He looked like a sausage lipped piranha.
He looked like a hitman for the mob
and I insulted him.

Then he told me:
You must not know who you are talking to.

Since he was a janitor
like myself, I laughed.

This crazy Italian fish,
this sausage lipped piranha,
this hitman for the mob, this janitor
lost his job for negligence.
The coworker he’d worked alone with every night
told me that he was glad the piranha had gotten fired,
told me the piranha had always talked about
killing people.

Who’d he speak of killing? I asked,
and he stared my way with vast blue eyes
and behind them his brain was vast blue flames,
and his reply was a vast and telling

He turned and drove the mop bucket away
and its waxy water sloshed like a mini sea
and its one defective wheel squealed and spun
and I heard a Sanctus bell that would never be rung
at this time of night.

It’s like a shadow on your bedroom wall—
you never think it’ll reach to grab your throat
until you stand just right before the night-
light and it does—

your flopping tongue a fish across the stucco,
your own hands around your own throat.

MATHIAS NELSON’s poetry has appeared in The Sun, Rattle, and Chiron Review. His first book of poetry, Dip My Pacifier in Whiskey, was published by The New York Quarterly. He’s a janitor in Wisconsin.

Read more by Mathias Nelson:

Two poems in B O D Y
Review of Mathias Nelson’s Dip My Pacifier in Whisky
Hilarious poem in Rattle