Matthew Dickman – Four Switches

I can feel the Christ inside me with his side cut open
so he can breathe like a fish
like someone who has been choking on a small bone, maybe
a tiny part of another animal’s vertebrae,
when a friend grabs him from behind, forces
him to lunge, the bone flying out into the restaurant’s candlelight.
And I feel like I am inhaling for the first time all day, a wind
from some mountain or the mouth
of a woman in boys underwear and blue lipstick
who has been chewing Wintergreen gum or smoking a menthol
exhales into my chest, slides her thigh along my ribs, oh
I can feel the Christ inside me shutter
and then sigh, the heaviness of his lungs let free like ripping
the Duct Tape off your lovers mouth
and pulling the soaked
handkerchief from the back of her throat in one long wet movement.
When you slap me hard across the face
there’s a lightning field of joy that hits the two thousand points
of my body’s galaxy
and makes me think of the powerful bodies
horses have. It’s amazing how far a single molecule of the sun
has traveled just to slip across your finger,
your lower lip, the three freckles below your left breast. It means
so much that you would take one of my hands
and put it around your throat
while you hold the other one down onto the white pillow
with every muscle you have left, and that you would turn your head
up to the ceiling fan and open your mouth
toward the light bulb which must be, by now,
turning into a cloud, spinning like a top made out of milky blue china.
I remember the sound you made the first time
my hand was inside you
and how that sound became deeper like a dark color
at the palm and how it finally rang
like a clear piece of glass at the wrist, the beads of sweat
beginning to drip from your forehead, your ears, until the room
took on a shade of bright yellow
somehow in the dark. I can hear it now. I can feel the vibrations
coming off your chest like flags
of electricity and how you would start like someone in a fight
but in the end, curled up
in the damp sheets, every inch of your body
was like a pool of warm water
that had been thrown onto the tile floor of an elaborate
dinning room, and how you would run a bath so that, stepping
into it, you almost sounded the same, a sharp pain
that made your teeth grind, the water so hot
that every part of your body that touched it was like Mars turning red.
The whole house frozen like a glacier but for the ghost
our clothes make in the corner of the room
as if they can still remember what it was like to be taken off,
still humming, almost warm. The moon
in the window and the sky
part cotton field and part obsidian, the kitchen towel we used, full of ice,
melting onto the hardwood floor. There is nothing
in the sky better than you. Nothing on earth that feels better
than the ribbon you took out of your hair
and tied around my wrists. Your eyes closed. Your chest rising
and falling like snow
in the windy dark, your mouth a little swollen, the blood in your lips
filling them back up, your arms above your head,
a little spit in the corner of your mouth, the things I love about you,
your legs kicking a bit when you dream, your ugly pajamas, your beautiful name.

Originally published in Dossier.

Matthew Dickman is the author of All-American Poem (APR/Copper Canyon Press 2008) and Mayakovsky’s Revolver (Norton 2012).  He is the poetry editor at Tin House magazine and lives in Oregon.

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