Country Music

By Matthew Dickman

When the dogs in my neighborhood go wild
over the patrol car’s red and blue scream, the lights hitting
someone’s window like electric tickertape
and I know some of those dogs are biters
because I was someone they bit,
I begin to think about the lives of men
and how we carry the heavy load of muscle,
the rumble and ruckus, without a single complaint
while vulnerability barely lifts its face from the newspaper.
But I’ve been drinking. I’m a little messed up
and there’s something about cigars and bourbon I no longer want
to be a part of. I remember how Kate would slip out
of her jeans, her bra. How she appled my body;
all that sweet skin and core, the full mouth and pulp.
She was like a country song
playing underneath an Egyptian cotton sheet, the easy kindness
of her body finding its way into mine.
But I have a father somewhere. I have a way
I’m supposed to walk down the street like a violent decision
that hasn’t been made yet.
I don’t care how many hours you put in
weeding the garden
or how much you love modern dance. You’ll still slip back
into your knuckles.
You can carry your groceries home
in your public radio tote bag.
You can organize a book club.
You can date an Indonesian hippie with dread-locks
but you are never far from breaking someone’s jaw.
When I was twenty-three I went to a party,
drank two Coronas, and slapped my girlfriend across the face.
I wanted someone to beat me.
I wanted to get thrown into the traffic
I had made of my life,
to go flying over the couch
where two skater kids were smoking pot out of a Pepsi can                   
and talking about a friend
who ollied over a parked car
the same day he got stabbed at the mall.


 

Matthew Dickman is the author of All-American Poem (American Poetry Review/ Copper Canyon Press, 2008). The recipient of The Honickman First Book Prize, The May Sarton Award from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Kate Tufts Award from Claremont College, and the 2009 Oregon Book Award from Literary Arts of Oregon. His poems are forthcoming or have appeared in McSweeny’s, Ploughshares, The Believer, The London Review of Books, Narrative Magazine, and The New Yorker among others. Copper Canyon Press is publishing a book of poem-plays co-written with the poet Michael Dickman titled 50 American Plays in April of 2012. W.W. Norton & Co. will publish his third book, Mayakovsky’s Revolver, in fall of 2012. He is the poetry editor of Tin House Magazine. Matthew Dickman lives and works in Portland, Oregon.

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