Duende [ODU Poetry Prize Honorable Mention]

by Lucian Mattison

She knows it well,
birth starting
deformity in motion
beneath skin, the clouds
turned sacks of rice
on her shoulders.
Her spine bends
like cheap silverware
against fingers.
Mouth on mine,
she sings a contract
into us, life
a column curling
ribs into the heart.
I hear a faint spell
of church chime
in her bones,
funeral bell trickling
irregular melody
down her back.
I make love
to her early
departure, keep vigil
as I trace her legs
like the walls
of an unlit room,
always reaching
for the origin,
an absent switch
on her hip.



About “Duende” ODU Poetry Prize judge Rick Barot said: The surreal “she” depicted in “Duende” seems to be the muse—or, at any rate, a complex, seductive figure. What’s most thrilling about this poem is how duende itself is manifested in the brightly metaphoric images in the poem: the image of “the clouds / turned sacks of rice / on her shoulders,” the spine like “cheap silverware,” the “church chime / in her bones,” and the gorgeous “absent switch / on her hip.



Lucian Mattison’s first full-length collection is Peregrine Nation (The Broadkill River Press, 2014). His poetry appears in The Boiler, Everyday Genius, Hobart, Muzzle, Spork, and The Valparaiso Poetry Review, among other journals. His fiction is soon to appear in Per Contra. He is an associate editor for Big Lucks and received his MFA from Old Dominion University. To read more visit Lucianmattison.com