Matthew Nadelson

Jim Morrison and Dionysus Sober Up in Riverside County

On the steps of the County Jail,
Jim Morrison and I sit, waiting
for the sun to sprout and crown the skyline
or at least a light for our smokes.
Behind us, the glass doors swing open.
Cops stampede past us and descend
into their chariots as orderly as Apollo,
unable to summon the sun.
Jim recalls poor Dionysus, drunk and barefoot,
cornered between nausea and oneness with all,
staring blankly at the blood and other fluids
splattered against the drunk tank’s walls,
stuffing his shirt with our cell’s last toilet
paper roll, and wrapping the rest
from rotten tree-stump feet to eggshell skull
to keep his brandy, dreams, and memories
from spilling out. All through the night
the sockless men keep stumbling in,
with their beltless slacks slipping down.
You cannot petition the Lord with prayer!
Jim tells the man kneeling in the far corner,
as I brush a fly from my eye,
yearning to spy from its body, any body
but this one, barefoot, slumped against
the numbing concrete floor, petitioning
the same irreconcilable cosmos
as you, Jim, shirtless and sockless,
reading Neruda on these walls
and finally understanding his desire
for socks— spun moonlight,
soft and warm as fire.


Matthew Nadelson is an English instructor at Norco College in Norco, CA.  His poems have appeared in Blue Collar Review, ByLine Magazine, Chiron Review, Connotation Press, Mobius, and other literary journals, and in the anthologies Beloved on the Earth: 150 Poems of Grief and Gratitude and America Remembered.  His first poetry collection, American Spirit, was published in August 2011 by Finishing Line Press.