“For Attention” by Day Mattar

Day Mattar


I was ten when I learned I could hold

my breath, long enough to make the adults

come running. At the traffic lights, after school,

I tensed ’til my face screeched

with blood, stars. I shattered two teeth on the concrete,

was made a fuss of. It wasn’t enough to ask for love.

I needed panic. It was the language, the formula

I understood—harm yourself love will follow.

My tiny face, found suspended in the coat rack, looking

for attention, cord from dad’s dressing gown

in a double-knot ’round my neck

their little balloon.

from Rattle #67, Spring 2020


Day Mattar: “I was challenged by Carol Ann Duffy, during her ‘Writing Poetry Workshop’ at MMU, to lean away from habitual free verse and attempt ‘something like a sonnet.’ I resisted at first, writing a scathing ‘anti-sonnet.’ I felt the traditional form was teasing me, threatening my poems into constriction, but, as I began to work against my instincts, I noticed writing within the restriction of shorter lines really tested the effectiveness of my language, and so I began to cut away the peripherals. It’s very easy for me to be led astray in the exhilaration of the writing process, and, in the sentimentality of that experience, to think that everything good I write needs saving. In this case, exercising restraint sharpened the intention and focus of the poem, and I still managed to reach a compromise with tabulation, and chopping two lines off the end!” (web)

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