Thea Matthews

after Dorianne Laux

We dreaded everything: waking up, coming to
in the dead of summer, standing in line single file,
Thanksgiving, presents under the Christmas tree,
mothballs in clothes, mice traps, the closet,
the bared teeth of German shepherds, race riots,
batons, stepping on cracks in concrete, the placement
of ceramic plates around the dining room table, family
dinners, eating in general, the smell of gasoline,
our voice cracking breaking a good moment, asking
girls to dance. We dreaded the old man’s brandy,
nuns with big hats, priests speaking in Latin, the car ride
to church, confession, the old man’s leather belts.
We dreaded extension cords, the basement
with moving shadows, mother pinching our skin
as if her two fingers were stainless steel tongs
strong enough to bruise, we knew the mornings
after laughing so hard our bellies hurt would be
what they would be, like coming back to the house
after playing outside. We dreaded wearing seatbelts,
looking at a barren sky, getting back-to-school
supplies, failing another test, wooden school rulers,
getting caught for sniffing glue, carving our name
initials with a razor on a desk. (We did it anyway…)
We were afraid to hear the rain pound the roof,
for it meant God wanted to beat us, too.
We worried about the rifle in the case, boxes
of cereal left on top of the refrigerator, crows cawing
against the wind, nose bleeds, welts, the next-door
neighbor passing out candy, always pressuring us
to come inside his house. We saw the wingspan
of a visiting barn owl as that of a scary vampire.
We were terrified by the thought of Dracula
coming in the night to bite and suck our blood,
or the Werewolf in the streets coming after us.
We dreaded having to wear collared shirts ironed
stiff with starch, and to be quiet again in church,
when really, all we wanted to do was just cry,
collapse and wail until we hyperventilate,
and pass out with the tv on.

Thea Matthews is originally from San Francisco, California. She holds an MFA in poetry from New York University. Her poetry has appeared in or is forthcoming in the Massachusetts Review, Obsidian Lit & Arts in the African Diaspora, Alta Journal, The New Republic, and others. Currently, Thea works for the Academy of American Poets and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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