Mudlark Flash No. 25 (2004)

Clay Matthews

Real Estate | Shallow Grave

Clay Matthews has been published or is forthcoming in magazines such as Tryst, Journey, storySouth, The Rearview Quarterly, Poetry Midwest, Rain Taxi, Taint, The Big Muddy, Rock Salt Plum Poetry Review, and has been nominated for a 2003 Pushcart. He is currently working towards a Ph.D. in creative writing at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater.

Real Estate

In the morning she pats on layers of base
until her cheeks resemble moth wings
in moonlight. The mascara clings to her
lashes like tiny flies on tape,
as dark as Thursdays.

When she kisses me on the cheek
I can feel the lipstick stick,
a red stamp of ownership,
the deed to my jawbone written in scarlet.

Sometimes I want to take her head off
and use it as a paperweight,
or put it on a broomstick,
so that when she leaves
I can waltz with her in the kitchen,
dip her down, kiss her
as hard as Humphrey Bogart.
This is how I like to look.

Something in the way green eyeliner
turns her eyes hazel, hickory,
liquid smoke, drives me crazy
enough to wear corduroys,
dark socks, and not talk
about what some men talk about.

For one kiss on the cheek,
I would offer her my mouth
on a platter.

Shallow Grave

I spent the morning forgetting
what I'd done in my sleep.

The warm throat in my cold hands,
the blonde hair stuffed into a screaming mouth,
a shallow grave off a county road
outside some small town I've been in before
in some other dream.

In the basement, doing laundry,
I stare at the shovel and wonder
if I should bury it—
not that anything really happened,
but something did.

My neighbor, the cop, waves
from underneath the hood of an old Mercury,
and I wonder if he was awake last night at three,
hovering over me with a warrant and handcuffs,
waiting for me to leave a piece of evidence
on my face, in my slurred sleep-talk.

I listen to the Mercury's whining fan belt
and think there could be an accident.
This all could be an accident.

The day moans into the afternoon.
My wife gets home from work
and I can't look her in the eyes.

I possess a strange guilt—a memory
of another life where I was something else,
and I can feel it on my neck, breathing.

Sleep doesn't come easy,
but I drink some whiskey and take a few pills.
I pull the covers over my head
and think about everything there is to bury.

Copyright © Mudlark 2004
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