Anton is marching with his new friends,
their shaved heads
like tongues of fire floating along 82nd
Avenue, the cars
at night honking at them
like they were vets
just home from the war. He is marching
with an old lie in his mouth,
a lie like a rotten acorn,
the acid taste of it making his mouth
salivate, the weight of it
saying no matter what, no matter
if your father has no job
and your mother fucks other men, you
are important, you are
a lost son of a great tribe, you are white
and that means that the bad grades and
bad teeth and no money
and dogs shitting in the kitchen,
none of it matters, you are a prince.
Now it’s like his whole body is full
of acorns, when he opens his mouth
they pour out of him,
who he once was is gone, branches
crawling out of his head like antlers.
Cheaper than therapy and you can smoke pot,
flip the eight-ball around,
ask your question.
Will I win the lottery?
Will I become famous?
You know, the really big Geo-Political questions
like will I ever see Berlin in the winter?
Will I walk below the Eiffel Tower in a bow tie?
And the magic eight-ball
will answer you right away, without
looking inquisitive or saying “hmm, that’s interesting.
let’s talk about your childhood”
the glowing pyramid will float to the top
and say yes, it’s likely, maybe, no, not likely.
I like sitting in my room with some candles lit,
the eight-ball in my lap like a crystal ball.
Do I make people suffer? Perhaps, it says.
Have I failed? Is my life dishonest?
When I pushed her down onto the bed
were we making love or was it, like she said
later, something awful? Of course.
You ask and it answers
like the gas pedal on a Mustang.
You push down and the car speeds forward
into your future, the one
you’re traveling so quickly to meet,
the one just beyond the next rest stop,
the next exit where the golden arches of Macdonald’s
glow like the Arch de Triumph,
two french fries from heaven
bending like a wave
over the happy meals and big macs.
You are heading toward your destiny, toward the city
of your birth and death
where a mother and father are waiting,
where love is coming up
from the fields like wild flowers
which you will pull from the earth
and carry with you
the rest of your life. Picking each petal
and asking over and over: does she, does she not.
Art by Daniel Toby Gonzalez
Matthew Dickman is the author of ALL-AMERICAN POEM (American Poetry Review/Copper Canyon Press, 2008), 50 AMERICAN PLAYS (co-written with his twin brother Michael Dickman, Copper Canyon Press, 2012), MAYAKOVSKY’S REVOLVER (W.W. Norton & Co, 2012), WISH YOU WERE HERE (Spork Press, 2013), 24 HOURS (One Star Press, Paris, France, 2014), BROTHER (Faber&Faber UK, 2016), and the forthcoming poetry collection WONDERLAND (W.W. Norton & Co). He is the poetry editor of Tin House Books and lives in Berlin, Germany.