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 Blackbird, Vinyl Poetry, Bennington Review, and elsewhere.
Love, the Ugly
Our mother’s hair
as razor wire,
her hands morphed
and for a while
was a cut
on us, every kiss
into our veins.
We could hear
how her bones
snapped, see smoke
exit at each
of their breakings,
and all through
told a curse,
each of us
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.
Millennial Roost (Eyewear Publishing, 2018)
2015, Academy of American Poets Katharine C. Turner Prize