Sunday Aug 14

Matthew-Nadelson Matthew Nadelson is an English instructor at Riverside Community College in Norco, CA. His poems have appeared in various literary journals, including Ars Medica, Avocet, Beauty/Truth, Blue Collar Review, and ByLine, as well as the anthology Beloved on the Earth: 150 Poems of Grief and Gratitude. Matthew Nadelson Links:

Audio Version of Dumpster Song

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Elegy for the One-Eyed Rat

Last night I fed the one-eyed rat who rents
a nest of frayed extension chords in my kitchen.

Her whiskers twitched and bristled
as she packed her nightly harvest

into the pockets of her cheeks.
While retreating to the heater, she paused.

Her eyeless socket spied me as she climbed
to my fist and flexed her razored talons.

Her good eye, unblinking, glimmered
with a spark of recognition.

I wondered what she saw in me
when she raised her ratty nose to my palm

and what else lurked in my heater
that would dare take a feral rat’s eye.

What news had this prodigal daughter
brought me from that kingdom of fire?

Had a third of the rats revolted
and descended into the flames?

Had the neighbors fumigated again?
Today I found her stiffened on my floor

with both eyes clamped. I returned her
to the dumpster outside my apartment,

where the homeless nightly scour our refuse
for anything redeemable among us.

Lonely Night Lost to the Woods

~ Big Bear Prayer ~

And let us not cry on this cold, dark night
for the loss of fire or light, old flames and gods,
as we walk blindly through the thick,
black, dust-filmed air, our red backs singed
from God's blind gaze— lost as I was
last night, hailing the darkness for a path
from a bathroom nonexistent as my faith
in any path, the darkness still
leading me into the dew-blanketed dawn to find
a meadow wet with morning’s settling mist
to wash the thirsty lavenders in piss.

~ San Francisco ~

Releasing unused nutrients,
sustenance for the Cosmos poking through
the film of trash along Kerouac street,
I’m watching two bums from Jack London Square
trying to start a fire in a trash can
near the City Lights bookstore—
restroomless city of books and tears.
I read Howl in there, while little blue-hairs
eyed me, who must have seen the best
minds of their generation numbed
and drowned in their own phlegmatic fluids.

~ Riverside ~

Today I senselessly left the incense
unattended on the toilet.
It burned down our toilet paper alter,
blackening the bathroom, my lungs
filling with thick billows of smoke,
the pink pulp of my fingertips
blistering to a bulbous pop.

"Third degree burns," the doctor handed
me half an Advil and half a day
later a nurse practitioner (practicing on me)
stuck a tetanus shot in my shoulder,
while the other emergencies, especially
the schizophrenic talking politics
with her self, mocked my burns.

Then, of course, the bathroom’s “out of order,”
and this doctor, sleep-deprived as I am,
urinated with me outside. “So what do you do?
Professional arsonist and scatologist, I presume?”
“Yeah, I put my fires out with my piss.”
We laughed, zipped up, and lit up Lucky Strikes
lucky as this or any other life.

Drinking in the Star-Hungry Dark

My lover and I sit with Black Russians,
slumped against two tree stumps
like old laundry along the banks of Kern River.
This evening, we attempted to brave its rapids
on our cooler roped to two chairs,
our peanut-shell foreheads piercing
the muddy milk-blue surface film,
bobbing between the twin worlds of the fish
and their educated cousin, the snake.

My lover and I sit with black
quilts covering our shivering bodies.
The fire between us rises skyward,
impotent to penetrate the moon,
who must see us shivering here,
as she laughs her slicing lightning,
and all life folds into her toothless smile,
leaving only a dark purple plum
budding from Orion’s astral wound.

My lover and I sit with black plums.
I slice into a plum tree's arm,
revealing the raw, green exchange
of oxygen between us,
as my own leaf-veined lungs expand
and contract with the Universe
collapsing into the star-hungry night. I bite into
a plum, and I know this sweet Earth is just
fattening my body up for the wind to dissolve
like laundry on a line flung heavenward.