Jailbird Mustache Hearing | Laura Shovan

by Ray Materson


After Ray Materson
by Ray Materson
He unraveled worn out socks
to make thread, begged a needle 
from a guard, embroidered life 
outside these walls.
Five thousand stitches to sew
a Mickey Mantle baseball card
from memory, five thousand stitches
to shrink his mother’s parlor down,
make it playing card size. In his palm
he holds the portrait
of a seagull attempting flight,
wing-tips gray as stone,
one claw caught in barbed wire.
by Ray Materson

The Alcoholic’s Mustache

My father-in-law’s brain was down to its last trick—comatose for days, but his throat still knew to swallow. We argued with the cardiologist. A nun explained that the doctor’s religion precluded him from letting the body die, and this was a Catholic hospital. The ventilator rose and fell. I studied my father-in-law, the growing stubble, greasy hair, ragged mustache. A hospice center finally took him in, turned off the machines. There, the nurse washed his hair, shaved his cheeks, his chin. He would have been grateful, we told her. He'd always kept himself neat. She said it would be awhile, that we should go eat at the diner around the corner. Before the burgers came, we got the call.

brass plaque, the poet
William Carlos Williams
treated patients here


The future Justice sits at a paneled desk,
spits into the mic about beer, about 
being young and summer, his surprise 
anyone would ruin him like this.

The room tilts. It has the paneled walls 
of my parents’ house. 
Are those my brothers’ muted voices 
or have I muted CNN? 

They are thirteen and eight,
watching horror movies again,
our mother in the kitchen, unpacking
videotapes and groceries. 

I ask my brother, 
“How can you want to see this?” 
He shrugs. “It’s not as if 
we’re watching a snuff film.”

Which are illegal, he tells me, 
but you can get the tapes 
if you want them bad enough. 
I peer into the room. Is there a third boy,

a kid from the neighborhood, 
from the country club? He nods
at my brother. If you want it bad enough
you can get a girl upstairs, 

on the floor, on the bed. And years later, 
when you’re called on the carpet, 
you can say she might have been assaulted,
at some point, by someone, 

but unless it’s on film, it wasn’t you.

And All the Ships at Sea
©2022 JJ Stick

Poems ©2022 Laura Shovan
All rights reserved

Laura Shovan…

…is a children’s author, educator, and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet whose chapbook, Mountain, Log, Salt, and Stone, won the inaugural Harriss Poetry Prize. Laura has written several award-winning middle grade novels, including The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, Takedown, and the Sydney Taylor Notable A Place at the Table, co-written with Saadia Faruqi. She teaches for Vermont College of Fine Arts’ MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults.



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