Four Poems

by Nathaniel Duggan


Just as every snowflake melts alike
all these backroads look the same,
and I take a wrong turn into a lifetime
of selling mattresses. But I guess you can’t
expect the whole ocean in one seashell.
I guess I don’t know why you fear sleep
when you don’t snore and you won’t dream.
Me, I pass out at work, I wake too late—
late August, everyone fleeing their vacation,
and I lose you forever to bad traffic.
Already I forget my last nightmare,
something about a lobster chewing
the shell he just cast off, busy as I am
trying to calculate a way back to you
that doesn’t require turnpike exits.


Another day goes to voicemail.
I play ‘Chicken’ with myself
until I wake unemployed
in a Super 8. I spend whole afternoons
sunbathing on railroad tracks.
These risks are necessary.
I must get to the palsied last breath
of a closeout sale. The crustaceans
are cheapest in recession. For you,
I’ll admit it. My long lost
coupon hoarder, I still hope to find
you in that place where my warranties
finally void.


The lease ends
so I squat in my own heart,
spend the rest of my days dreaming
of lost teeth. Yes, I am shallower
than a cricket.
I needed this grief to realize
there’s no romance in singing
with your knees, with the body’s yielding.
What has love ever done anyway
besides crash my last Honda Civic?
I want to learn instead from the seafloor,
where the crabs replace their departed wives
with rocks. It is dark down there, after all.
Who will tell the difference?


The prom is not saved.
You are defeated by your sadness
in a sports stadium named after
cheap auto-insurance policies.
I remain a drug-addicted
shoe salesman, and the stars
are a long distance from me here
in China, Maine. Let the losses pile
like waves, like seals virused
and glittering on a shore:
so we were promised love,
so the liver is a sledgehammer,
so this austerity will never end,
so what? We can bleed endlessly.
We are jellyfish, our blood
only jelly, and we’ll never
fall for a disguise again, because
everyone should know everyone else
is fake and a face is nothing
more than the light Velcroed to it.
At the bar I send back my beer.
There are better ways
to be hammered, better ways
of becoming a nail.

Nathaniel Duggan used to sell used mattresses, now he's unemployed. He lives and writes in the state of Maine.

Photograph: Lobsters