Matthew Lippman

Like Lizards

The madness of having children is that they don’t go away.
I want them to—to the park for twelve years
or to college when they are ten—
even the ones who haven’t arrived.


Don’t slide out just yet, give me six more days of silence
to watch 24 episodes in one continuous loop
so I can pretend I’m some kind of white trash, anti-establishment rogue hero
who can save the world.


My wife tells me that I have already saved the world.
Look at your daughter.
Then her airplane, the one she drew orange yellow purple,
takes off and flies around the living room.
Want to get on, Papa?
Damn straight I do,
fly to South America and walk the jungle.


And I know Rachel is right,
at three o’clock in the morning—
that birth is a weird sort of stupid salvation
we can’t flee—
but still, I can’t return my daughter to K-Mart
when she blows a gasket and falls apart into a ball of smoke.
I can’t scream, Stop burning my eyes out
with your four year old
branding iron.


And the one we think is in Rachel’s belly,
what I am supposed to do with that?
It’s a boy
, I say and she says,
It’s a boy
and then I know I’m fucked,
can’t even hammer a nail into a 2by4 to save my life,
how the hell am I supposed to teach him
to beat the shit out of muscle zombie bullies
who scare him into corners, lockers,
shopping carts
they then push down a hill?


I’m coming to get you, I scream, I am,
but think I will never get there
because the whole world is one big attack dog schoolyard–
a black, Jew, Puerto Rican calypso drum block party
that won’t stop.
Tell me,
how am I supposed to teach him to dance and be still
all at once?


I know I will wish that he disappear when he bombs his sister’s room
with his little dick
then sticks a tennis ball packed with C-4, pineapple and mud
down the toilet;
have wished it already;
wished that he float out of Rachel’s body
into the positive and negative ions of out there
before he gets right here.


But then, earlier, I saw this fire engine in the driveway
of a fire house
and had this flash-dream that he and I were on it,
blowing the horn, blasting the red machine down the avenue
to the blaze,
to jump off the truck before it stopped,
to run inside the building and grab those trapped kids in the corner room
who couldn’t get away from the grey smoke
as it crept
like lizards
up their burning cheeks.

Matthew Lippman
“Like Lizards” first appeared in Pleiades (29.2).