SAID THE RIVER WHEN I BEGGED FOR HIS SONG
Kid, I may look so slicked back, coffee black, so coolest cat under a root of summer swelt that you want to cut loose from the cantilever and melt your oatmeal face into all my cool, my smack, my smooth soaked place. But some days (and you’ve seen it) I’m so swole I don’t need a hundred suns turning to tongue bridges into cud. Some days I’m so filled with rage and rain, I rip this whole town down and wash it with stones, blown tires, shopping carts, and boosted I-Rocs bursting over all those weak ass locks and sandbag banks to bumrush your streets, your blocks, your bones. I bully through concrete, a whitewater wall showing you just how ugly pretty I can call out all the beat and broken ways you bit my dirt with hammer and shovel with reeking loads of angle and invention. And all for gold? All to show you’re more than your stack o’ dimes dick, that somehow you could run a train on death? That is some kiss my ass bullshit, son. And now you come sucking up for a song, now you’re kneeling and begging for my breath, mumbling how you’re so humbled in my mud, making me your fucked-up amalgam of mother and lover, professing some mission to recover the missing past and plasma of your blood. Hell with you. Ought to put you over my knee. That tough love you never got from your damn fool daddy.
MATT W. MILLER is author of The Wounded for the Water (Salmon Poetry), Club Icarus (University of North Texas Press), selected by Major Jackson as the winner of the 2012 Vassar Miller Poetry Prize, and Cameo Diner: Poems (Loom). He has published poems and essays in Birmingham Poetry Review, Harvard Review, Narrative, Crazyhorse, 32 Poems, Adroit Journal, The Rumpus, and other journals. He is winner of River Styx’s Microfiction Prize, Iron Horse Review’s Trifecta Poetry Prize, and The Poetry by the Sea Conference’s Sonnet Crown Contest. The recipient of poetry fellowships from Stanford University and The Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Miller teaches and coaches at Phillips Exeter Academy and lives with his family in coastal New Hampshire.
Read more by Matt W. Miller
Poem on Verse Daily
Two poems in The American Journal of Poetry