Thea Matthews is a poet / scholar / activist born and raised in San Francisco, CA. She earned her BA in Sociology where she studied and taught June Jordan’s Poetry for the People. She writes on the complexities of humanity, grief, and resiliency. She has work in the Acentos Review, Atlanta Review, For Women Who Roar magazine, and others. She is a Tin House scholar; and has delivered her poetry at various festivals including Litquake, Lit Crawl, the National Queer Arts Festival, and the Sonido Music Fest. Her first collection of poetry, Unearth [The Flowers], will be published by Red Light Lit Press spring 2020. Find her IG/Twitter/FB: theamatthews_ and www.theamatthews.com
from the artist
Poetry validates Truth. To see and be seen, feel and be felt, listen and be heard–– poetry honors the body, memory, resiliency of humanity. When I write, I reclaim my voice and feel my own Power. When I write, I see, feel, listen to Spirit. When I write, I join you in love, dialogue, tension. I am no longer alone. I tap into the Source of Strength.
THESE SOFT THINGS
i am open
so taste me
of my flesh
it was so
long ago that
i was walking
streets made of
i am too filled
to walk anywhere
with my blissful
legs, my bruised
these soft things
w e r q
for lunch i eat hot cheetos & read
most days i am too poor & sleep deprived to pack a lunch
i put on my best wig
paint my eyes crimson
i wash my hands in the employee bathroom like ritual
still fingers stained red
i am the only register
o p e n
always a servile thing
wore my best wig for you today, ‘suh
didn’t you notice
do you like it
wore it just for you
i’m not allowed to touch their hands when they pay me
no, this is not written in the handbook
call it an unwritten rule
people like me just know these things
even on my best behavior i be too corner store to touch
i pick money off of the counter
i am not allowed to make eye contact with them
we don’t even use the same bathroom
i bet they don’t think i know anything
that i’ve never read a book in my life
just sell them
programmed with answers
a servile thing
o p e n
i play girl for 8 hours
i play blk for 24
this barely pays for my rent
but we free now
in the union
guess that means something to y’all
i don’t sleep to dream
i’ll play dead if you want me to
a servile thing
even in my dreams i am not blk enough
even in my dreams
i am anything but
AFTER WE SHOOT A BREAKDOWN
IN THE MOVIE OF MY LIFE
The director pulls me aside and says they are
thinking of rewriting the script. Our original plan
was to stay as true to real life as possible but we think
it’s just missing something.
I am exhausted. We have just filmed the part
where I pull out my hair and punch myself in the
face as my mother watches. Like what? I ask.
It’s just. We know you’re telling the truth when you say
this stuff happened. But we don’t know if the audience
will be convinced. We think we need to add something
to the story to make you behaving like this believable.
I touch at my bruised peach
of a cheek self-consciously as they continue.
No one runs out into the street just because.
Or cuts off all their friends out of boredom.
There’s got to be a reason.
We need to write a scene in that explains this
whole thing. It’s not enough to say that your
head works like that. It’s not realistic to say
that you’d ruin everything around you
just because you can.
I pull skin
over my eyes
you are so
a man barges through the screen
to hook his fingers in my mouth.
i’m a fish market. i’m flattening into the bed.
rolled out. cooking off the rotten bits.
his boot heel’s a fork in my tongue.
i’m dimpled. gilled. asking for a god
who wears bones slick with pity.
asking to be bent, taken by firelight.
smelt from iron. pierced through with spokes.
a wheel for a head. a garage for a mother.
i want to ask the ones who crave a soft thing to tie up
if they think of ham, wake up covered in glaze
and lick their own shoulders,
scald their tongues on their cunts.
i’m a skillet overflowing sticky
til the bourbon burns off.
i’m the menace. i’m the menace.
i’m the mother of stink.
question: how does a ruined girl yield
the way a knight yields? whose pipeline am i blowing
up, exactly? if you ask a man to drink
from your faucet, do you become him?
i pull my man atop me and ask to be buried in brick
but beggars can’t be shepherds. he’s a reverse cowboy.
a slinging zookeeper. i’m the beast
rattling the cage, asking for slaughter.
When the man on the subway refers to me as It
It becomes a tunnel
without sound, a dark pit.
I fall in
rein back my pride,
chew a bridle of spit--
teeth bite hard to spurn my wild tongue’s fits.
I must be doing something right
if no tits,
a buzzcut and no prick
bring me hate speech in transit.
I have a seat, I sit.
& dream up a palace where I’m King I fit.
I’ve been craving
wanting love, wholeness, but then, I feel it--
a wild orchard of peaches
blooming from one pit.
But you can’t have my money.
–Stephen Colbert on The Late Show, in conversation with a Black Lives Matter leader
& you can’t have my phone. slide & divide my nothing no more. play my beats or eat my cake in the bathroom stall while your wife pour it up & oh she can’t have that no more neither. can’t have my rows in your head wired down with my cousin acrylics & DAX. can’t have my sidewalks littered with my dead once called your kill that’s my head. can’t have my beats & I can’t emphasize that enuf my mix tapes my CDs my Motown recording studios my Bird my Prince my Prince my Prince or my Pryor or my long ass dick or my sweet pussy poppin’ quit daydreaming you fuck about all the shit you can’t have which continues to include my arms, Bernie Mac, Frida Kahlo, a fat ass, James Baldwin & the word “twerk.” sheeyt. imma be here until a good age to die talkin bout all the shit of mine ain’t yours. but fuck it. im brown & distinct. laid out in the sun. only getting more black. with your green in my bag. & your blood in my blood.
you look good in green
Dream about you throwing
me out of the window.
There are flowers,
we are twin brothers.
looking for the moon
In the same place it was when I fell asleep.
We forget to keep the windows open
and I hear you in the kitchen,
asking nothing of me.
Informal existential crisis,
deer on my front lawn.
Hand slapped to floorboard,
big soft red flowers falling.
Clothes to wash,
knives on dinner plates.
Mutts asleep in driveways.
The vines growing into my skin
will leave green scars,
you’ll rip them from my back
and plant them in our yard.
Head down in the shower,
window falling out.