Matt Mitchell

when warren zevon appeared on the letterman show in 2002, he knew he was going to die soon

babe, protect me while i press my lips 
against the handle of an unlocked door,

afraid of what dust cradling my 
expired electricity lies on the other side.

as warren walked into the belly 
of shrapnel the autumn equinox left him,

he knew even the darkness could yank
the last breath from his lungs.

i have taken every moment i let you 
breathe into my open mouth for granted. 

there are so many ways to repair the ribcage 
of our home all the love spilled out from. 

warren painted his whole body into a 
suit the color of soon stretching itself 

around the teeth of an entire year & 
imagined his god as a sandwich

he’d never learned to savor. no one wants
to pray to a slice of air crammed in-between

two bruised walls. i feel heaven’s weight 
in the touch of every postal worker’s 

hand that delivers one of your postcards 
to my mailbox in the vanishing morning 

of summers. in a few months, i will have lived
in three different decades, & too frequently

i’ve awoken to the knuckles of my back
burning & breaking against a grave

of a mattress & feared my fourth decade
would crawl into a dead body’s mouth.

i have lived in-between the teeth 
of a year & imagined soon as god,

soon as the drive along the ohio turnpike 
i make just to fall asleep in your arms.

the ides of march

i have never written about shooting 
a gun before,

because the closest i have been to
an exploding barrel was when my father

taught my mother how to shoot
in our backyard a decade ago.

my uncle drank a fifth of angel dust
on his parents’ patio in 1985

& shot himself in the head
with a twelve-gauge rifle.

my father still hears gunshots at night
when he is asleep. 

he has never read any of my poems.

my other uncle goes to west virginia
every november to hunt 

& bring back dead things for his wall.

every march 15th, my father takes
his brother’s portrait off the mantle
& stands in the same spot where 
he died. he slides his feet over 

the recarpeted floor, says this could 
be a poem,
& knows he would never read it.

Matt Mitchell is a gluten-free, heartbroken, intersex writer from Columbus, Ohio. He is the author of the forthcoming poetry collection, The Neon Hollywood Cowboy (Big Lucks, 2021). Find him on Twitter @matt_mitchell48