Matt Dennison is the author of Kind Surgery, from Urtica Press (Fr.) and Waiting for Better, from Main Street Rag Press. His work has appeared in Verse Daily, Rattle, Bayou Magazine, Redivider and Cider Press Review, among others. He has also made short films with Michael Dickes, Swoon, Marie Craven and Jutta Pryor.
Wild cat howls at my back door
after the terrible storm.
I look out the window—
fearful mistake: voracious
eyes drain my face—I dim
the lights and huddle
the dark imagining
I am her God imagining
he understands this cry.
The Rock, the Water
First published in Innisfree Poetry Journal
Walking wide-eyed, the child drops
to his knees, for the stream is all around
and flowing. He lifts the rock, the water
slurping its way beneath with thirsty relief,
washing cool the inhabitants who sigh
and tumble forth with amazing heads.
He catches some, damaging severely
with no cruelty, no knowing; he wants
them as they are to be wanted and no other.
He catches some more, now preciously aware,
glisteningly upheld. Satisfied, he stands.
Reaching the offered end of his journey
he marvels: I heard your call. I am here.
I will lift your rocks, pull back your bushes;
slide down your waterfalls, build me a dam.
I will return at night and stare into your eyes.
(Your warm spot is not yours; this I know.
You live by the fact of the sun; this I know.)
I will hear you move in the midnight water,
far from my touch—O magic discovering
of wondrous field, seemingly excellent,
perfect, and untouched!—I prefer my hand
in your side.
First published in Random Sample
In slicing the papery dome off the hexagon,
the black and yellow self-held limbs, unmilked
face and flightless wings of the unborn wasp were
revealed. Removed with tweezers so God-mouthed,
wrapped in the muscular sun’s original desire for flight,
I pulled the infant out, attempted to spread its fate across
my nail-board. Unwilling to be displayed, it contracted,
withheld it’s mechanical death-secrets from a child
such as I. But what is youth without dissection?
The Boy by the River Told
First published in Gnarled Oak
The boy by the river told to await his father’s
return plays with pebbles, kicks at rocks
as the night rises through water,
drops from trees to fashion a statue
cast in grey then black when the last
spark of faith flickers, falters
and goes out, the night
rushing in, floating him upright,
stiff through the woods to lie in bed
listening to water spilling from
room to room, door to door,
the whole house shivering, shaking,
breaking down under water flashing,
flooding quietly down the stairs,
pooling, stopping, crawling
past the father unseen.
Gallop the Bred Horses
First published in Sprung Formal
“Too grabby,” my father said
of my hands rushing to break
the earthen clods before
his final slice. I should
know better the rhythm,
the routine—cut, flop,
twice—by now, the blade
warned me with relentless
strikes not fingers from my
hands too eager to shake
the worm souls loose,
knowing to break
is better than to slice,
that one whole soul
is better than halves
no longer wiggling
but water-logged on
hooks unable to interest
the hungriest fish we’d
be lucky to see as I galloped
the bred horses of my dreams
into dark waters, wanting only
to find fullness with fullness found,
the captured to feed that which feeds.
Years later my neighbor handed me
a telegram mistakenly delivered to her.
Without waiting for another to halve
the hidden, I sliced it open to read
the news of his death complete—
my tongue forever a tent-stake
or trowel, anchoring the lost,
shoveling the gone.