marvin gaye’s face in the northern lights outside a walgreens
as i rev the engine of my saturn aura, it eats the bubbling landmine of asphalt & i still can’t hear the massachusetts flag on the coast of the atlantic ocean billowing from cleveland, though i know it shares the same dusk as the fissures in the sidewalk outside. i can’t see the northern lights in lakewood, & i’ve been to this walgreens six times this month to buy tylenol for these migraines. i’m just not used to the way the weather is always changing. i grab a bottle of pink pills to pop in my mouth off the shelf & a bottle of coke to wash it down, listening to “mercy mercy me,” oh things ain’t what they used to be, caking the space above the store’s silence from the ceiling speakers every time the electric doors slide open. my heart still remembers the pastel sunsets of cape cod & when a cash register dings, i remember sand dollars & crab legs & lighthouses. i hum to myself oil wasted on the oceans & upon our seas, fish full of mercury.somewhere out there, nighttime is glowing. somewhere out there, neons from this soft drink cooler are splitting the stars we’ve already named.
& the sky is celadon green,
& i sing my sweet lord na na na to it
& it sings my lord my sweet lord back to me.
the poet explains the 1987 slam dunk contest to a group of poetry workshop classmates who don’t watch sports
“…as i was saying, michael jordan dueled with dominique wilkins, & you don’t need to remember those names, but you must always remember that michael once leapt from the free throw line & contorted his body into a space shuttle & he left an entire arena shattered & flooded with tangerine flames & i’m telling you this because i was not alive for the moon landing or this dunk contest, but when neil armstrong returned to earth, everyone thought he’d left us all for good, & he did not soar again. but, when michael launched himself into a different dimension, he returned & had everyone saying look at the air, look at the hang time, look at the flying motion, & immediately ascended back towards a galaxy most of us will never even see. & when michael completes that dunk, i instantly remember how to do everything i loved when i was young. everything tastes better, the colors of the stars are brighter, & people forget what the word abandonment means because they are too busy writing down what they just witnessed, so they can tell their grandkids about the time they watched an astronaut defy gravity before their own eyes. let me tell you, michael jordan is not michael jordan without dunking, in the same way john coltrane can’t be john coltrane without a saxophone & thumping keys. so, the hoop gods created this whole body that sung in the air, made every kid want to go where no human had ever gone before, &, every time, it feels like the first moment i heard smokey robinson sing. if you take anything away from what i just told you, let it be this: i used to be able to moonwalk when i was a child, & when i watch michael stick his tongue out at the camera & destroy astroids with his altitude, my feet instantly know how to bend like water & float along the floor.”
about the writer
Matthew Mitchell is a Northeast Ohio poet trying to make his work as beautiful and wondrous as Vince Carter’s 360-Windmill dunk in the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest. Meet him at your local coffee shop (not Starbucks, because the aforementioned poet’s partner’s family owns a coffee shop and the aforementioned poet refuses to cross enemy lines) if you want to talk about how Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” is the quintessential pop banger. His work appears in, or is forthcoming to, journals like BARNHOUSE, Noble/Gas Qtrly, The Indianapolis Review, Barren Magazine, and others.