Ryan Mattern

Dream Songs

When you sleep beside me
your dreams seep from your ears.

I see milky images of you
dressed in braided rope,

twisting down tree roots.
You pin hummingbird markers

in the bark for place,
to find your way awake.

Dreams are like this,
I think.

A song in made-up language.
Airy twine sewn of Latin,

of French and German.
A place where Columbus falls into orbit.

You are singing in your dream,
so beautifully the sun cries.

Your voice wrings water
from knotted light.

Outside our bedroom window,
the katydids saw through their legs.

What We Become

I became a man in the marbled eye of a harelipped pronghorn bound at the hooves
to the pulley of an A-frame. Tongue-splayed shock heat fogged from its open mouth.
I smelled life in those winter morning ghosts. My father gripped my hands. We muscled
a buck knife throat to tail, etching through piebald fur. He reached into steaming
yolk center and yanked syrupy twin antelopes from beneath their mother’s lungs.
He held them at arms length and became a blackening shadow.

My son will speak of rivers and of the animals that leap them. I will give him my father’s
first .240 with notches on the stock. My son will close one eye and focus on mirror
images of pronghorns and their negatives becoming one as they waver above a spring.
Trees’ leaves morph into locusts who wing away as the antelope collapses.


Ryan Mattern is a recent graduate of California State University, San Bernardino, where he earned his B.A. in Creative Writing. His work has appeared in THE2NDHAND, Criminal Class Review, The Pacific Review, Burning Word, as well as others. He is an active member of poetrIE, a reading series dedicated to showcasing the literary voices of California’s Inland Empire. He is the co-founder and fiction editor of The Halfpenny Marvel, a journal for flash fiction and prose poetry. Currently, he is an MFA candidate at various California universities. He lives and writes in southern California.