Read Poem: A Stomach Filled With Poison by Matt Nagin


Always I return to the emptiness, the lack of vigor, and the arrow
in the safari smile; always I am once more among the hunters
and magic spears, cyclops wardens, anvils in the ravine;
always with the suns smashed into the curtains of night
and whirlwind promises sold like bottles of loneliness
in the filthy streets; twisting inside, eradicating a cavernous
bliss, attacking where strength is most required…


Rainbow days cascade into wounds that can never quite heal
and presumptive questions for the limerick nights that are
torn asunder with the blinding pain like bandits tortured in
jails of soft demise until they admit defeat—but they won’t—
cannot really—for the fight is all—and to go on is to dream
today—to maintain enough resolve to lift yourself out the
swirling sea, the quicksand of hardship, the limitations
of mind and soul, the spiritual and emotive sacrifices before
the jaguars; to build yourself up and find a way to laugh at all
the madness; the way you are consumed by the jewels of
vitality within; a stomach filled with poison, but still to go on;
to, strangely, persevere.


A pound of poison, a ton, a brigade; poison by the barrel; poison in
your dreams; poison when you awaken and make love; all is spoiled;
rotten; the apple decaying on such a narrow vine; the spirit crushed;
energy waning; your friends take off on wings of majesty towards
such lofty shores and you in the bathroom just trying to make it
through another day; the pain dropping you to your feet, clipping
you where most powerful; the pain sinking you right in the gut;
poison where the night shakes and the moon holds your hand; and at
the family dinner and the job interview and the meet and greet with
the devil; it wraps itself around you like ivy like a sheet of ice
like a prayer group for a sinner—poison in your belly and nowhere
to evade the onslaught or even blunt what it does to you for a second.


Poison yet again like a curtain of topaz, like a sun shower, like a deliverance
from superficiality; to lie on the couch holding your gut wishing for an end
is to be redeemed; to suffer in silence while others go on in glass houses
catering to every unimaginable whim, pleasure-junkies, hooked on the
idiocies of desire—is to rise above; to be eagle spirit, with wings that knife
through existential boundaries making you closer to Earth even as you
seemingly float away; to make you predator and prey; this poison gift, this
abracadabra wish, this death-plunge made of sugary dreams—this is your
salvation; this is what can carry you off; this is how you can rise above
your suffering and taste the pearls of a dawn crooked and endearing
before it even happens; this is how you are redeemed.


In the end, when the waves of pain surge, your head spins and you run
to the porcelain friend again and again—a warrior for the dark spaces,
a perennial exorcist of the evil within, a sorcerer dying from a spell he
cannot understand—in the end it is all a runway for you; the planes can
still kiss a genial, aberrant sky; the night is still waiting; decades pass
and still you can return to yourself; have these brief moments, these
flashes of bliss; evolve beyond the curse; the poison in a lockbox for
an hour, or a day, or a week: it is enough. Must suffice. A stomach
filled with poison, but still a pacifist in an unseen war that most days—
in spite of yourself—you can go out and win.



Matt Nagin’s poetry has been published in Antigonish Review, Dash Literary Journal, The Charles Carter, Grain Magazine and Arsenic Lobster. In 2018, his poem ‘If We Are Doomed,’ won the Spirit First Editor’s Choice Award. His first poetry collection, “Butterflies Lost Within The Crooked Moonlight,” was released in 2017, and has obtained very strong reviews. More info at


Matt Nagin





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