Poem of the Week | April 12, 2021

This week’s Poem of the Week is “Salad Days Are Gone” by Matt Mitchell!

Matt Mitchell is a cardinal chaser and buckeye electric. He wrote The Neon Hollywood Cowboy (Big Lucks, 2021), tweets @matt_mitchell48, and proudly shares a birthday with Tom Petty’s Southern Accents.

 

Salad Days Are Gone

an uber the color of strawberry jelly drops me off
at the airport with a suitcase full of paper doves,

while 106.1, soft rock from 60s and 70s,
says the air tonight is sweet like astronaut ice cream.

remember the air tonight, open and spacious
like that bookstore with the 32 rooms, intrepid and disastrous.

the neighbor kids, with messy bedrooms and neapolitan cheeks
sticky as touched museum exhibits and alien glow,

are watching the news report a death, silent like gods cradling
their sons’ heads, watching margaret’s lips move.

something about a tangled suspension cord.
a classmate we teased.

a teenage father taking off on a skateboard
towards his newborn kid,

only to vanish into a text message siren. goodbye, salad days.
all the scales and fishhooks, the feathers and the bricks.

we can never come back to the people we once were.
and there is no good way to write about death. it happens,

we forget about the body—only to put it in a poem years later,
a day after writing a poem about the heavens unzipping on us,

continuing to objectify the body’s existence
and lack-thereof even after its passing.

surely you remember him, his left-backness
and lived-down-the-roadness,

when he came to school dressed as an astronaut
for the classroom halloween party,

with dreams of eating ice cream on the space station.
remember how we threw away his candy.

how we told him he’d never make it to space
with that ugly ass mop. that he’d never leave ohio.

i never thought any of us would leave ohio.
and what is leaving, anyway?

nothing but highway, evasion, vacation, sky.
even as an adult i can’t outrun my teenage mistakes.

after an uber the color of strawberry jelly drops me off
at the airport with a suitcase full of paper doves,

i google search interstellar ice cream at my terminal,
only to learn astronauts don’t even eat it on the space station.

 

Author’s Note

“Salad Days Are Gone” is a poem written from a place of shame and embarrassment. It was also written as a response to a lyric in Nico’s (or Jackson Browne’s, depending on who you ask) “These Days.” The lyric goes: “Please don’t confront me with my failures / I had not forgotten them.” I was a horrible kid growing up. Horrible. Maybe an understatement, to be honest. I was a bully, a toxic douchebag, an arrogant bastard, you name it. And when I was a freshman in undergrad and my mom texted me about a former classmate of mine dying, someone I was never kind to, I was really fucked up about it. We always hinge on the thought that we will always get a chance to make amends for our shortcomings, for our mistakes. And that’s just not true at all. I don’t know how to write about death and I especially don’t know how to write about the death of someone who died thinking I was a horrible person. So this poem was an early step in trying to be better. An admittance of fucking up.

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