“On Learning that Woodpeckers Don’t Have Shock-Absorbing Skulls” by Matthew King

Matthew King


Of course they don’t. Of course they optimize
the force that they apply with every blow.
They’d have to hammer harder otherwise,
to do the same amount of work. You’d know
this if you used your head for just a bit.
You don’t because you’d rather let them stand
as models of a headspace that you’d fit
yourself in gladly—wouldn’t it be grand
to bang and bang your brains and never mind?
You’ve seen how many jagged shards they spray,
you’ve seen how deep the holes they leave behind,
and thought, of course, they’ve got to have a way
not to feel all the force they must exert.
You wanted to believe it doesn’t hurt.

from Rattle #82, Winter 2023


Matthew King: “Like Stephen Dunn, I started writing poems to get girls to like me. (He says ‘that’s the glib answer,’ but it doesn’t sound glib to me.) All these years later, I’m still trying to write love poems, though where love is not of the kind that I’ve come to think of as a ‘narcissism of two,’ with lovers gazing upon themselves reflected in each other, but where it’s a shared, responsive reception of the being of things, from different perspectives, in which speaking and hearing lovers—whether together or apart—reciprocally, deepeningly, open themselves and the world to each other.” (web)

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