POEM IN WHICH EARL SWEATSHIRT ASKS ME IF I WILL SHOVEL BROKEN BONES INTO MY MOUTH AFTER MY GRANDMOTHER SAYS THE CARDINAL ON HER TELEVISION SET IS HER DEAD HUSBAND
by Matt Mitchell
after "Chum" by Earl Sweatshirt
once, under the belly of a night tinted with a hue of february cold,
vince carter, blanketed by an atlanta hawks jersey, flew
in on a canadian swarm of wind & dunked so death-defyingly
over kevin love that my grandmother mistook vince’s red streak of a body
for that of a cardinal & asked me why her dead husband was on her television set.
my grandmother, hands of leather pressed with cemetery dirt,
planted marigolds & left orange marbles in the wet soil guarding her husband’s grave,
carried his voice to the dinner table & jammed it down my throat
as a sacrifice to god so she could eat a blessed meal. she told me to drive by graves
& honk the horn to let our loved ones know we were okay. she choked down
an apoe gene drizzled onto her potatoes & applesauce & sculpted
whatever was left of her husband’s skeletal face in her hands
onto my cheeks. a cardinal crashed into my windshield
while i was driving down the road her house was crumbling on.
its feathers left lakes of red in the cracks of the wipers.
i shoveled all of its cartilage off the frozen tar & into my mouth,
swished them in-between my teeth, & spit them all out into the shape of resurrection.
i drive by my grandfather’s grave & forget to honk.
i refuse the invitation to let god swim in the open channel
of my tired mouth. there was no red streak on her television,
only the reflection of my emaciated body across the black glass.
the cataracts permeating in her eyes, mistaking this skeleton for heaven.
she once told me a cardinal didn’t mean shit if our dead ancestors had no desire to visit us.
Matt Mitchell is a writer from Ohio. His work appears in, or is forthcoming to, venues like The Boiler, NPR, Frontier, Vagabond City, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and Homology Lit, among others. He is the creator of A Galaxy of Mail-Ordered Chaos, a series of essays on the NBA and hip-hop.