Matthew Dickman

Poems by Matthew Dickman

Slow Dance

Grief

Lents District

  Matthew Dickman

Lents District

Whenever I return a fight breaks out
in the park, someone buys a lottery ticket,
steals a bottle of vodka, lights
a cigarette underneath the overpass.
205 rips the neighborhood in half
the way the Willamette rips the city in half.
It sounds like the ocean
if I am sitting alone in the backyard
looking up at the lilac.
This is where white kids lived
and listened to Black Sabbath
while they beat the shit out of each other
for bragging rights,
running in packs, carrying baseball bats
that were cut from the same trees
our parents had planted
before the Asian kids moved in
to run the mini-marts
and carry knives to school, before the Mexicans
moved in and mowed everyone’s front yard –
white kids wanting anything
anybody ever took from them in shaved heads
and combat boots.
On the weekend our furious mothers
applied their lipstick
that left red cuts on the ends of their Marlboro Reds
and our fathers quietly did whatever
fathers do
when trying to keep the dogs of sorrow
from tearing them limb from limb.
Lents, I have been away so long
I imagine that you’re a musical
some rich kid from New York wrote about debt,
then threw in Kool-Aid
to make it funny. I can see the dance line,
the high kicks of the skinheads, twirling
metal pipes, stomping in unison
while the committed rage of the Gypsy Jokers
square off with the committed rage
of the single mothers.
In the end someone gets evicted, someone
gets jumped into his new family
and they call themselves Los Brazos,
King Cobras, South-Side White Pride.
Dear Lents, dear 82nd avenue, dear 92nd and Foster,
I am your strange son.
You saved me when I needed saving,
your arms wrapped around
my bassinet like patrol cars wrapped around
the school yard
the night Jason went crazy –
waving his father’s gun above his head,
bathed in red and blue flashing lights,
all-American, broken in half and beautiful.




ALL-AMERICAN POEM (American Poetry Review, 2008)