Mathias Svalina

Mathias Svalina is the author of four books, most recently Wastoid from Big Lucks Books. His bookThe Wine-Dark Sea is forthcoming from Sidebrow in 2016. He is an editor for Octopus Books & lives in Denver.


from Thank You Terror


But we are not

animals, not yet.

We are inefficient space,

reading books that look

like broken bells

when we could be cribbing

the raw ribs

of the secretary of the board

in our urned arms,

our blue air.


The story begins with a gap

& then a thousand people

in biz-cas costumes

saying um, um, um, um,

ummmm, um, um.


There is no movement

until you believe in movement.

Love is a threat,

not in its idealism,

but in its refusal

to fail

to exist.




In the compound

city I made

a ball gag of me.


My body replies in hospital,

in shut-door moon,


some white thing

shaped like my face.

Like an object,


a he can be

lost & found.


No, I made

a ball gag out of me.


A box of analysis, prayers

of loons & crickets

& that’s not my heart

it’s the rat gnawing through my ribs:


some events

only happen every night.


When I say he I mean a smuggler.

When I say he I mean a cruel blade of fiction


or, as Fred Moten says,

Don’t let them humanize us.




When the TV

laughtrack laughs for me

I feel bad for the TV.


A binder is

a border

only money answers.


The song “Poison”

by the musical act

Bel Biv Devoe

is the only valid cure.


Sprung from the wound

& pooled below the body

& forgotten,

where does blood then go?


And why must blood

taste so much

like a cuddling?


My favorite part of any day

is when men are terrified.

My favorite part of The Bible

is when they all go to Little Caesars.




I’m still arriving

at the meat market.


You don’t need

a name to need saving.


I’m getting psyched

out by the speaker,

feeling a sense of history

by shushing a friend,


wearing ignorance

like a name tag,

running the errands

of race & gender.


Some days

all I can do

is close a door.


I’d take a hundred toothtakers

over the acquiescent.

Divers undoing. Heart stack.

De cardio racism.


MIA says You don’t have to throw your hands 

in the air, ‘cause tonight we ain’t 

acting like we don’t care. 

Then I throw

my hands

in the air.


It gets hard to distinguish desire

from the comfort of pain.


When I think about my dad dying

I feel dumb for writing

poems about my dad dying.


I hate men.

But I do

love dogs.



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