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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, March 16, 2018.
About this Poem 

“Like most of what I make, this poem was born out of a memory. For me it's about the simultaneous strength and fragility of a parent seen through the eyes of a child and just how crazy that is to witness. It's also about the strange static that appears in the air when something violent or something that has the potential to be violent comes out of nowhere.”

—Matthew Dickman

Transubstantiation

My mother is taking 
me to the store 
because it’s hot out and I’m sick and want a popsicle. All the other kids
are at school sitting 
in rows of small desks, looking 
out the window. 
She is wearing one of those pantsuits 

with shoulder pads 
and carrying a purse with a checkbook. We are holding hands, standing in 
front of the big automatic doors 
which silently swing open 
so we can 
walk in together, so we can 
step out of the heat and step 

into a world of fluorescent light and cool, cool air. 
Then, as if a part of the heat 
had suddenly broken off, 
had become its own power, a man 
places his arm around her 
shoulders but also around her neck 
and she lets go of my hand and pushes me 
away. Pushes me toward 

the safety of the checkout line. Then the man begins to yell. 
And then the man begins to cry. 
The pyramid 
of canned beans in front of me 
is so perfect 
I can’t imagine anyone needing beans 
bad enough 
to destroy it. The man is walking my mother 

down one aisle and then another aisle 
and then another 
like a father dragging
his daughter toward a wedding he cannot find. 
Everyone is 
standing so still. All you can hear
is my mom pleading
and the sound of the air conditioner like Shhhhhhhhhh.

Copyright © 2018 by Matthew Dickman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 16, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Matthew Dickman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 16, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Matthew Dickman

Matthew Dickman

Matthew Dickman’s most recent poetry collection is Wonderland (W. W. Norton, 2018). He lives in Portland, Oregon.

by this poet

poem
for matthew z and matthew r
I remember telling the joke
about child molestation and seeing
the face of the young man
I didn't know well enough 
turn from something with light
inside of it into something like
an animal that's had its brain
bashed in, something like that, some
sky
poem
(Salt)

A LOBSTER.
           Once out of the box
           The wooden box
           The metal box
           The box, the box, the box
           Dragged up from the salt

           Things don't feel too bad

           And then they do

           And then they don't

(And waves)
poem

The only precious thing I own, this little espresso
cup. And in it a dark roast all the way
from Honduras, Guatemala, Ethiopia
where coffee was born in the 9th century
getting goat herders high, spinning like dervishes, the white blooms
cresting out of the