Promise it’ll be my last

by Matilda Houston-Brown

we are on the beach and my mother
is telling me how poetry isn’t practical
anymore. that my writing has to be an act
of violence, a way to earn in a world
that wants to eat me alive. I am sure that
she is right
this poem, like those before it, is useless:
an alphabet of dead jellyfish, my own name
written over and over again in miles of muddy
sand. MATILDAmatildamatildaMATILDA matil—
my surname never meant anything,
you know.
just two people holding hands. I wanted so badly
to stand on their shoulders in ways that mattered,
climb up through my great grandparents’
sacrifice into the daylight. poetry is a pointless
autopsy of my family shrubbery, a fickle way to
navel gaze.
if I could sell my words, the survival would be made
a lot less metaphorical. (you know, you should do it
for the love of it.) it looks a lot like self-obsession,
all this lack of capital letters. my mother tells me
I should be less bitter, that this would make friends
so much easier.

Oh God, this beach doesn’t seem to end. Oh God, how right
she is.