UNDERGROUND VOICES: POETRY
MATHIAS NELSON

Enamel Eyes

In the nursing home
she is blind, deaf,
and paralyzed from the neck down.

I give her a drink
first.

Then it’s my duty
to strip her, clean
her bones, the skin
that hangs like deflated tires.

I wipe her face
and with my touch
she shivers moans.

I change her diaper
and dress her
in the same long, loose black dress
every goddamned bedridden day.

I brush her dentures
and gently hold her mouth open,
a tiny hole of black,
gums purple as jelly,
her head squirms.

“Say ah,” I say
to her broken drums
and try to jostle the false teeth
in, try to make her mouth
bigger, but it’s never enough.

Gray pictures of her dead
mother and father and sister
smile at us, even blow kisses.

I imagine what it’s like
to be deaf and blind and eighty
six and unable to move,
all alone with some stranger’s
fingers in your mouth.

How far gone is her mind?
Does she know where she is?
That all her family is dead?
Hell, is it?

“Ah,” I say,
“ah, ah, ah.”

The faces of her family
don’t know. Maybe she
doesn’t completely know.
Maybe her mind is
like the photographs, gray
taken fifty years ago
blowing kisses.

The dentures won’t go in
today. I begin to sweat,
to shake.

“Ah,” I say, “ah,”
and begin to weep.

My tears fall
into her mouth.

She stops squirming,
sticks her tongue out
and tastes the salt of sadness
that rolls along her dry buds.

For a moment, she grins
toothless, knowing
someone, perhaps a mother
a father a sister a cousin a
long lost niece still weeps
for her.

“Ah,” I say, “ah,”
and catch the kisses they blew.


Museum

I drank to kill myself because I was too alive
and heard Billie Holiday singing in a crate,
her voice long and sorrowful as a drunk’s cigar
burning lonely in the night next to fedora covered eyes,
pluming over rain puddles of the present,
inching toward extinction, the past rippling past,
lost in a street’s gravel.

I drank to kill myself because I was too alive
and saw Lincoln’s blood on a rocking chair.
Pictured him dragged from it out into the night
under a lucid moon, his carriers tripping over cobblestones,
his mouth hanging open with his head,
and back in the screaming auditorium the chair
still faintly rocking his blood to sleep.

I drank to kill myself because I was too alive
and stood the same height as a Ku Klux Klan uniform
propped in a glass case, its eye holes dark and shallow,
level with the reflection of mine. I saw it blink. Heard it whisper
your roots, while behind me a dead black man
spoke of dreams.

I drank to kill myself because I was too alive
and boarded the Rosa Parks bus, half full
with black schoolgirls, skirts above knees,
socks so white over smooth brown skin that I floated past
to the back of the bus, while they sat up front
peering out box windows at white people trudging by
after a long shameful tour.

I drank to kill myself because I was too alive
and the bus jumped with the schoolgirls’ intrigue;
their skirts waved side to side as if dancing, smile to smile
as they took turns in Rosa’s seat. I stared, awestruck with history
and tears dragging down the inside of my skull, happy and sad but
also itching, fantasizing, wanting to demand a seat up front,
and when denied, to exercise my freedom by mounting
every last one of the schoolgirls until they moaned for it
so loud they all lusted to share Rosa’s seat
in my lap.

I drank to kill myself because I was too alive.
Then stopped. Because I was realizing dreams.









© 2004 - 2009 Underground Voices