Three poems by Matt Mitchell • Empty Mirror

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An Ocean of Shaking Hands

Each time I bayonet a needle into my gut,
I am digging up another dead boy buried in the dark

corners of whatever apocalypse hides there.
I carry the burden of every body unfurled by a needle

in the scabbed-over pockets of wound
on my stomach. Sometimes, a boy is born

from the ache in my shoulders if I’m overdue for an injection.
Sometimes, it’s from the songbird of tearing skin kissing

every sliver of open air. Some boys use testosterone to grow
a thick field of hair on their cheeks; others to build mountains

out of their biceps. I use it to make the geography of my DNA inhabitable.
I think of Neil Young’s Crazy Horse guitarist, Danny Whitten,

& how his arms drank dust under the tourniquet of a thousand leather belts
to treat the rheumatoid arthritis settled in the thickest marrow of his bones.

How Neil wrote his life was in his hands after he kicked Danny out
of the band for being so high he couldn’t keep up with the group’s rhythm.

How he gave Danny fifty dollars & a bus ticket from San Francisco
to Los Angeles & let him die by the fist of a needle that once kept him alive.

“Tonight’s the Night,” a vehicle of grief, museum of Danny scattered over a song.
I am made of a thousand things, all inherited from a horizon of sharp touch.

The Etymology of Landfill


1916, from land (n.) + fill (n.). A euphemism for dump (n.). An abstract for dusk trickling into dirty soil (n.). Colony of Coke bottles wrapped in duct tape, brimming with used syringes (n). Taxonomy of an entire island of waste (n.). Love song of a thousand crows (n.). Graves of refuse buried in the arms of burning earth (n.). Catacombs I sculpted out of pictures of me & old friends before I started hormone therapy (n.). Wound of garbage singing like swallowed light (n.). Motherland of urges to want what’s inside of me so dead my feathers become the weight of bricks (n.).

My Body, As A George Michael Music Video

today, a doctor said my body
is a tree. tonight, i dream of dancing

in a portland bar while wearing a
pencil skirt of sunset moths. a skirt

with pockets. pockets from which a
million trees grow out of, all

blooming with lemons & denim.
i have abandoned myself all over

the world, but, tonight, i will find
a home for the flowers between

my chipped teeth inside a song
spilling out from a jukebox, one

that doesn’t care if the dance i’m
doing is out of love or survival.

About Matt Mitchell

Matt Mitchell is a writer from Ohio. His work appears in, or is forthcoming to, places like BARNHOUSE, Gordon Square Review, Frontier Poetry, and others. He is the author of YOU’RE MY FAVORITE GARÇON (Ghost City Press, 2020).

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