Matthew Toll

Photo Credit: Christian Haugen

​Ants Still Marching

 

 

There are days when the sidewalks
fill with ants—
red, white, black, gold, blue, olive green, purple—
all at war with each other,
with themselves,
and the rest of the world
too.

 

                                                           They march one by one by two, three, ten, or more,

 

eating every scrap in their paths,
trashcan to kitchen floor,
infantry-locusts, black-ops.
Eventually the sweet soup
gone from their bowls,
replaced by the sticky sap
of baked beans and onions and candy-wrappers.

 

They push shopping carts ten times their weight

 

filled with lives in beer bottles
worth five cents a piece, ten in the right place,
or
they pull suitcases packed
with pea-coats torn,
pockets stuffed with blue-green feathers
worth nothing.

 

Now the storm clouds gather like the ants below,
then                               scatter
then                             fall
to the long waiting soil
ready to gobble it up.

 

Driven by Pharaohs the ants haul their bounty in wicker wheelbarrows

 

headed for the oceanwide hills
where they’ll gear up for battle
against another billion-citizen world.
Like the Greeks at Carthage
they meet in the mud fields
hand to hand.

 

They fight, don’t feel the nuclear rain spraying down

 

until it’s too late,
the work’s been futile,
the world they know is gone
the hive the home food the den the men the women the children 
radiated and destroyed
at my merciless hand.

 

The ants go marching.

 

 

 

 

 

 

God Grant Me Air Conditioning 

 

The days are long
as the empty fields of France
fertilized by bones, blood, steel, screams, smoke,
steady spring rains.

 

And I’m higher than the mountains.

 

Buzzing stronger than the bees.

 

Microwave lullabies beep beep beeping
into consciousness
bring me
lower down than a back alley slag
in the heat of late May.

 

But it’s July,
and the heat’s much worse than that.

 

 

 

 

 

I Got a Black Toenail in Vegas  

 

I got a drink
a thousand bucks
and
a black toe nail
and
all I want to do is stand by the table
watching the guys play big money
putting lives down disguised as
green on green
swimming in a chipped ocean
mermaids abound.

 

And
out of the bowels of the stadium
through arms fingers flags cheers dreams screams tears
the
melee of the crowd
a fighter enters.

 

And
in the side-room
a gray-haired comedian
recites fifteen year old lines
to the losers
searching for something
anything
to take home with him
to the old lady.
Outside
the hookers
the whores
the hyenas prowl 
in a city of carcasses
the dead and living
up til dawn.

 

And
this town
the last town
that you or anyone else
can smoke indoors,
can win or lose a life,
can still get a free breakfast free room free loot
free free.

 

And
the busses loaded up
the cabs spiked fares
the limos dry-cleaned of spilt drinks
the sun climbing desert sky lips tasting dessert thighs
card cards cards
flipping figure skaters bruised forever
by the fall,
Clocks melted and blurred by the heat,
portraits of royalty
clear water mirages
materialize,
the dream forgotten then remembered night after night,
while time stampedes
stopping for nobody.

 

but 
through the magic
I feel the reality of my black, jacked, and broken toe as
I limp my way upstairs
to see the future—
all it takes is a mirror and an old photograph.

 

and
things are 
finally
looking up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Promised Land

 

about to be on the move to the next town
probably a hundredth the size of the one I’m in now—
drinks a hundred times harder, too.
my promised land of dive bar havens
women who still know how 
and want 
to get down in a grimy bed
with sweat stained sheets
that haven’t been changed in too long.
surrounded by high sea
fly-paper floors
sticky with beer vomit blood ash love.
all day
whiskey will flow
every second of every month
the rivers will be the right cold
until it’s finally done snowing
when nickel and dime rains will fall all spring.
the sun the flowers the butterflies 
the grass and the wine will come out to play.
the mountains will shield us from the world.
You ready?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matthew A. Toll currently hides out in Burlington, Vermont. He’s recently had poetry published online in Dead Flowers: A Poetry Rag (issues 8 & 10), Fat City Review, Hidden Animals Lit Journal, Walking Is Still Honest (July 2013), The Vehicle, Industry Night, and forthcoming in print in The Modern Faye Magazine in 2014.