While painting a house in New Orleans
some twelve-thousand years ago, the owner
came out and started talking to me—
had me to sit down, take a break,
drink some water. Offered me
a cigarette—all nice and friendly
in the easy southern heat.
One thing led to another when,
from nowhere, he revealed his daughter
had died in the Jonestown Massacre
and he was suddenly weeping, choking,
sobbing over his exquisite suit in his
exquisite Uptown courtyard in front
of this nobody kid hired to paint his house.
I was twenty-one, watching this adult, lawyer,
successful now-broken man reaching out his
hands to me from across the table. Didn’t know
what to say or do, so I took his hands and listened.
I think I was his blank-faced cow from across the fence,
able, of all, to hear him, allow him to moan his wounds—
both of us realizing some degree of idiocy
is required to understand slaughter.
After a rather extended and varied second childhood in New Orleans, Matt Dennison’s work has appeared in Rattle, Bayou Magazine and Redivider, among others. He has also made videos with poetry videographers Michael Dickes, Swoon and Marie Craven.