When we fear a thing we are making what the
technicians call a love. When we fear a thing we make
it brush our lips. We're the ripped gown that snags on
the red-bricked hotel, a sickness of desire to feel
the tinny itch of sickness tickling the throat. Like
carhorns & neon, fear leads to stupor, coma, death.
Another game of truth or dare played out among the
organ pipes. The mucus settles sweetly in the corners
of your mouth as you sleep on the hotel room floor.
How lovely you to wallow like that armistice we'd
studied. No, the back of paper napkins. If you hear
the falling bowling balls bouncing on the on the
cobblestones then maybe this time by the laundromat
the moonlight through the willows won't be holding any
needles to the light-polluted sky.
The yellow gown snags on the red-bricked hotel,
dehisces like a match head on a coaster-covered table.
I was only thinking of your sicknesses, essential as
your mother. How they wrap you like a gown,
tongue-silky & formal.
This is the way I woke you on mornings that the sun
jaundiced the white wallpaper: Oh Desdemona! It's time
to meet the morning's million makers!
In the beginning there was an old man with a long
beard. He gathered all the children around him to sit
at the foot of his chair & said to them:
I am going to tell you the story of how the world was
In the beginning there was light. In the beginning
there was fire. In the beginning there was the chaos
of nerves. In the beginning there was the saltiness of
skin. In the beginning there was the word. In the
beginning there were a couple of ice cubes on a piece
of sheet metal. In the beginning there were lies. In
the beginning there were only lies.
In the beginning a fox fell from the sky. In the
beginning the crow flew into a stone wall. In the
beginning a Buick backfired. In the beginning there
was silence. In the beginning there was darkness. In
the beginning there was crying. In the beginning noone
would talk to me. In the beginning there was starched
shirts & regular distribution of medicines. In the
beginning I was so lonely I bit my fingertips.
Just then the old man’s brother walked into the room
He asked his brother: What are you doing?
The old man with the beard responded: I am telling
these gathered children the story of how the world was
The brother looked at the room & back at the old man
with the beard: But brother, these are not children,
these are mimeograph machines.
It was at this point that the mimeograph machines
began to rattle & shake & began to discharge copies.
Mathias Svalina lives in Lincoln, Nebraska where he co-curates The Clean Part Reading Series. He is also co-editor of Octopus Magazine. Poems of his have been recently published or are forthcoming in Jubilat, Fence, Bridge and Denver Quarterly among other journals.