Chris Mattingly lives in Louisville and is the author of the chapbook Ad Hoc from Q Avenue Press. His poems have appeared recently in The Louisville Review, Southern Indiana Review, Margie, and Trajectory. Chris is also a banjo player and can often be found walking some section of the Old Wilderness Road. He has his MFA in Poetry from Spalding University.
Letter to the Courts
She was either having to prove she was
Fit to parent her newly returned kids or
Show she’d completed an appointed program
Or give receipt of fines paid, but
I can’t recall. And there it was: hand-written
Palimpsest of bawdy cursive phonetics
With erasures and dented letters. Like
A faded advertisement for the old product
Of our raising. Being one who can move
In and out of vernacular I asked her to let me
Iron and type it out. But she just looked at me.
Because she wasn’t looking for a proof reader.
She just wanted to show me she’d done it.
In case dad or someone came around asking.
I don’t remember when they started to
Get bad but today I noticed a tooth
Like a new crawdad hole here in the back.
Speaking a crawdad holes, did you know that
If you drop a rock in one you can hear
Water splash & gurgle under ground? Well,
Back to these teeth and how it seems that I’ll
Finally get why she never does smile—it’s
The mossy pebbles in her mouth reeking
Of soggy, dead mint leaves. This is my mother
I’m talking about and if I could I’d
Take and sand them smooth so I could prime
& paint them back to cotton white then give
Them back to her for Christmas or something.
Mom Explains the Scar on Her Wrist
You were at the river camp, just drinking?
I was drinking Zima, sitting listening to the radio.
Curtis was inside passed out. I could see him.
I was right outside the living room window
Listening to the stereo trying to have a drink
When he smacks the window to scare me.
I was right underneath that window too.
So I jumped up and spilled my drink.
When he hit the window to scare me
I was staring at the sky thinking it’s never this blue.
I shot straight up spattered my danged drink.
I was fuming like gas I was so mad.
So I pretended to go back to that blue sky,
And sat waiting for him to pass back out.
I was burning up inside I was so irate.
But when I spied the cigarette smoldering
On his knuckle I knew he passed back out.
So I slapped the window and shouted Whatchit
Right soon as I seen the cherry sear the knuckle.
My hand shattered the glass and slashed my wrist
When I hit the window and hollered at him.
He was still passed out. I could see him through
The blood shot window from my ripped open wrist.
All I wanted was to sit at the river camp and drink.