Everyone I hated was named Joan
or some variation thereof, and the sky
was twice as bold. The historical mattress
museum boomed. You could even bring
frozen custard in there, and maybe
a man with a leather hat
would chase the kids a little.
My man was around ten feet tall
but still didn’t have a proper job, other
than holding down a bar stool.
He was so good at it they gave him
the margarine halo of a canister lamp,
found extra sugar packets to level
his favorite table. My favorite mattress
was the one where James Brown
convinced himself that velour
was what ridged the circumference
of a frozen orange. My man turned into
a hideaway filled with perforated
finch wings and baseball cards signed by
a priest. He wore one suspender
like in a gold rush jailhouse.
They wouldn’t let the felons sleep
on mattresses with springs, obviously.
The first time they booked him
somebody used an extra vigorous hose
because my man looked exhumed,
too abused to have been ransacked
by a class full of first-years.
Guards avalanched him with powder.
One day he swallowed a cleaner
meant only for pewter spoons or dice.
It took me hours to wash him out.
His feet hung so far off the edge
of the bed. A bat seizured against cups
in the kitchen. His head was split
like he was some kind of latter day
Lincoln. I wanted to wrap him
in the flag of his republic.
Mary Biddinger’s newest poetry collection, A Sunny Place with Adequate Water, will be published by Black Lawrence Press in May 2014. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Crazyhorse, Guernica, Gulf Coast, Denver Quarterly, Pleiades, and Sou’wester, among others. She teaches poetry writing and literature at the University of Akron, where she edits Barn Owl Reviewand the Akron Series in Poetry.