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Dustin Pearson

Years: 2016


Dustin Pearson is the author of Millennial Roost (Eyewear Publishing, 2018). He is a McKnight Doctoral Fellow in Creative Writing at Florida State University. The recipient of a global fellowship from the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, Pearson has served as the editor of Hayden's Ferry Review and a Director of the Clemson Literary Festival. He won the Academy of American Poets Katharine C. Turner Prize and holds an MFA from Arizona State University. His work appears in BlackbirdVinyl Poetry, Bennington Review, and elsewhere.


Love, the Ugly


Our mother’s hair

fell sharp

as razor wire,

her hands morphed

to talons,

her smell,

wet iron,

and for a while

every touch

she gave

was a cut

on us, every kiss

sent toxins

into our veins.

We could hear

how her bones

snapped, see smoke

exit at each

of their breakings,

and all through

the night

we heard

her screams,

every story

told a curse,


each of us

its container.



Sleeping with Grandfather


I remember Mom threading the needle,

lashing the stitch back and forth in her hands.

Grandfather had just died. We found him dead

on the hardwood, skin still vibrant and moist.

No time to waste, Mom peeled him in long, shapely strips,

then cut them into worthy squares. Grandfather

would become a blanket, an otherwise mixed message

for us to sleep under. Mom paid a guy

$50 to dig a hole to throw him in, and another 20

to cover it up. She sat around the plot making the quilt,

and we sat a skirt around her while she told the story of him.

Bastard, always made off on cold nights, paying for warmth

he hadn’t bothered to find right in front of him, but I promise,

she said, you all will have. He won’t take that away from you,

and it’ll kill him, you know, shacking up to benefit his own kin.

And she was right. All those years, we had him.

At bedtime, we’d pull him back from the headboard,

tucking ourselves feet first before pulling him over our faces,

warm as any, dreams stirring under a world whispering.




The Thawing Season


There are times when the door to Mom’s bedroom

doesn’t open. Sometimes, it lasts for months.

Frost creeps from the floor tiles to the walls,

but her door still burns like a furnace. What’s left

of the heat throughout the rest of the house floats

to the top. Dad shows in his red pickup. In the back

are meat hooks and long lays of chicken and beef and pork.

Through the door, Dad animates in black boots,

an apron and rubber gloves. Before long, his frozen cast

of meats hangs above us. He puts a pot of water to boil

on the stove and looks after us. Perhaps he’s lonely.

As the door to Mom’s room cracks, the meat starts

to thaw. Flies gather. The hooks and meat sway

in the air above us and drip, and soften shape,

and sometimes fall on us from the ceiling.

We’re covered in blood, dead meats and their juices

with our dad, and we settle in well to this routine

by the time the water boils, he’s gone again.