Poem on Becoming and other works by Laura Mattingly


Laura Mattingly saw the underside of many large bridges during her float from Kansas City to New Orleans. She wrote for the Metro Santa Cruz Newspaper for a while in CA. There were no notable bridges in this town except for the wharf, which she considers to be a one sided bridge. She now lives in New Orleans and pours booze for a living, helping bridge the gap between sobriety and intoxication. She used to edit the magazine Artvoices. All in all, she characterizes Louisiana bridges as long, and CA bridges as tall.


Throw Down #3

a freedom in cheap shining things    joy of bling    wear our stare like a badge of
courage and peer into storm    into camera lens    into solid wall of white fog
into all    the talking heads say and do not    into the cunt of god    and throw a cry
heave    a laugh that shatters like a glass bottle that tinkles back down, bloody
shining crown    we are so fucking down    crowd into trains and out, mounds
of woolen shoulders    faces like clay masks uncovered in a mountain of crisp
snow    loss so present with us    attached and tangible    a limb or unseen weighty
organ    we wearing smiles thick as jeans    and raw as children’s skinless knees



Poem on Becoming

This one janitor, this one fictional super hero,
this one lawn mower, this one's believed in nothing since Auschwitz,
this one sells hats, and has for as long as his father had,
this one refers to black people as democrats when he really means niggers,
this one postal worker, fingers sweat through the envelopes and dreams of marrying an astronaut,

what comes of us who give so much to become

this one president, this one Pie Lady,
this one pornographer, this one a moldy mattress,
this one jumps the fence and never looks back,

becoming what we must, what they say we are, sometimes we'll be

this one runs a notary, this one Mr. Okra, this one a suit and tie,
this one drives a Pepsi truck, this one doesn't know how not to lie,
this one welfare, this one Rolls Royce,
this one missing fingers to machines, this one sings his way into every home,

what to do when becoming begins to cost too much

this one Christian, this one kiss-ass, this one parks cars,
this one odd, this one terrorist, this one has too many cats, this one Iranian,
this one splits molecules, this one makes love to everyone,
this one couldn't give a shit,

what will we pay to become what we think we must

what will they take as payment for a name
this one creole
            this one white
one creole
            one nigger
blow you, my baby, blow you, my enemy, blow you to hell and back
one creole                 one doctor, pays for dinner
              one French
And this sex-act a uniform, and this word-act a thin skin,
                        this mind an eye, sculpted screen, making things things, and "un"s
and "ing"s,
belief a fashion, worry an infection, a politic, plague

one migrant, what color, one food stamps, one don't talk like this,
 one wants teeth she can whiten,
circumnavigate, rotate, orbit, rim and lick this eye-truth,
            eye-truth hole for thoughts to blow through, go through, salvation,
one mud up to the ankles, under fingernails, head up,
              one must, head up under fingernails,
creole shaped hair shaped tongue
             [wash: to cleanse, using water or other liquid, usually with soap or detergent]
creole under fingernails,
             [wash: to flow over, against or past, rubbing or scrubbing]
mites in the hair, comb in the hair, mites under creole, paste or sludge, crawling mightily,
might we,
might we become something,
             [wash: to carry, erode, remove, or destroy by the action of moving water]
             [wash: to rid of corruption or guilt; cleanse or purify]
crawling mightily out from under the tread of this boot,
might we become something other than please, please for pleasing,
             and hunger wanting,
black eyed please under the fingernails,
             allow me to plant and harvest your please,
might you give me a minute to learn your
                      license             insurance                 social security
safety in invisibility of sameness
             for the sake of
children            possibility
and for this becoming column becoming drawer                   becoming computer
             STD free               parallel or perpendicular

the library is not responsible for your personal possessions

Homeland Security is not responsible for our personality failure

this one mold in his walls
             [to come out in the wash, to be reveled eventually, to turn out
well in the end
this one integrity, this one a stark raving mess,
             [wash down,
             wash up,
             wash out,
             to wash one's hands of

this one me, some of the time,
      but never in front of strangers

this one you, that we respect,
      to the utmost, but only when you make us smile or money



October Poem, for USA, 2008

Senator Robert Bennett, a Utah Republican, "It is ordinary people looking at ordinary pensions, with their ordinary Main St. kind of 401(k) plans who lost that $1 trillion. And they lost it in a matter of minutes."


Part I.

Dust coating faded for sale signs,
                       sale stale and sales sullen,
                                               [if umber were a smell].
Blanket of mood, a solid yellow line in the center of the highway
surrounds the neutral ground-don't cross.

We've impeached all the simple gods, rejected prayers and bail-outs.
            No out now. No know how.
Boarding up the snow cone stands, roller coaster tracks stand relic as
sundials, knowing every quiet slow angle and wind-grown.
The summer is gone.
There is a time for things and a place for things. You know this.
Attention kept safe by speed for so long, click of track, head back against
rest, hands up, pause, and roar.
                          Now we sit in rooms we don't own, with second hands, hour hands,
                          shadows like creaking docks, and grass blades that shiver in place hit
                          by evening wind. Light dims, but does not satisfy as a fade-out.
                          Theatres are vacant, sequin costumes hang limp in their closets.
                                     No drama of darkness forever.
                                                                            Just dark for tonight.
                          Until the sun comes trudging up because it must.
                          And so must we.

The dream is done, so now we have days.
Use the food stamps for the children's lunch, pat their butts, and send
them away on the yellow bus.                   I wish they didn't have to see this.
Collection agencies ringing continuously. Throw the phone in the sink.
Would that we all had a desk at a time like this, all on the same numbered
page, with a teacher up front to put our questions in order.

A man in torn jeans met me outside my work to repossess the van.

Google "bailout vote," Google "House vote," Google "Roll Call vote,"
Google, "who is my congressman, anyway," Google, "what
address do I put on this box I just shat a big steamy shit into?"


Part II.

We are a slow quiet nightmare, true upon waking.

The man took his Rolex to the pawnshop to turn his water back on.

We are a punch line. We are not laughing.

The European tourists strolling on Santa Monica pier muse at how cheap
the small plastic sailboats are now. "Like buying things in Mexico."

Come October we stitch clothes of our worst fears and dress in them.

Summer is over. Google, "foreclosure."

In October we roam around in the dark and become our own ghosts.

A fan turns slowly by the power of the evening wind. A black trash bag
          scuttles across the cement plane. A dragonfly thuds its wings
        against a stucco wall.

Mega Zeph-a wooden roller coaster track built on a steel frame to
prevent termite infestation and withstand hurricane force winds.

Which war will we vote into office next?

Theater dark but for the stage platform made of mirrors reflecting rose
light from the setting sun outside, doors left permanently ajar.



Worn Sailed Story: Ekphrastic Poem on Re-Neavus, Sculpture by Jules Cote, Herbert Kearney, and Joshua Walsh


Made of levees, and mayhem,
made of river's molting,
mysterious assemblage washes skeletal arch up onto St. Claude corner,

--what the fuck THAT is--dear head, whale rib, wings of hysterical albatross or
some other such seraph,

           placed so,

                                               that any night wanderer,

         face dark, dirty, worn,
                                         or worner,

           might climb up into that wooden stomach-crag's surfaces
smoothed by how many curves and miles,
            smoothed and molded by current and water noise-countless
soft and anonymous tongued hands

                                  forming pieces into something other than broken.


[Never again the whole we were,
there is no return.]

Some bends in this river wish not to be relived.


So we climb on up towards spotlight, sun, or red-glow of cigarette butt
                         into, into, cathedral, fist, axe-swing, or rooftop,
emerge into this moment of such spontaneous construction as untouched by even

          [The longer eyes stay open the less scars they see,
                                 even wrinkles pockmarks, and limbs lost are blurred by ware
                   and stream.]

What IS that, spirit gulp, landed thump, on such a well-trafficked thoroughfare,

                       carried there,

                       traveling tracks back in time before air.