"The Other Half," "Excerpt from an Unknown Last Act," and "Then Your Pet Hamster"

The Other Half

having read milton is far more
enjoyable than reading him
a long-winded crank & religious
nut not unlike my cousin tony
a constant bible thumper at least
he is after serving time
again like milton only not for free
speech & censorship but going
through a messy divorce tony down-
loaded a misunderstanding he
maintains or entrapment as his court-
appointed legal aid argued
who wouldn’t want to see hot naked girls
nevertheless he went to jail
which was very embarrassing
for his family which technically
I am although adopted of course
this is not to imply that milton
for all his convoluted syntax
ever did anything whatever
your opinion of paradise
lost or samson agonistes even
half as bad but to be fair
there was no internet
back then only a basic apple
in the way of temptations
plus milton was blind yes
I know what you’re thinking
& no he didn’t get that way
from jagging off however hard
he might have tried & neither did
my idiot cousin who though not blind
required surgery on his right eye
socket after brutally beaten
in prison so he sees only half
the world & not the good half either



Excerpt from an Unknown Last Act

no known recording of rex harrison
speak-singing edgar allan poe’s the bells
exists its weirdly lilting rhymes spilling
out from a ghoulish version of my fair
lady never staged a dreadful loss
for humankind like shakespeare’s lost plays
or the soviet union’s collapse
I do a pretty good impersonation
of harrison but who can do shakespeare
justice & not chafe or worse from wearing
cheap nether hose also let’s not forget
what became of russia not to mention world
sad thing that it is after gorbachev
unpaid workers who lost their lifesavings
gunned down along with children in the streets
does boris yeltsin ring a bell does
quasimodo such tragedies are why
we want more shakespeare so we can see what
love’s labour’s won is like already knowing
about losing why we could use every
now & again some small reminder that
you needn’t be a singer to sing
that we can make a song from anything
for instance poe’s ham-fisted poem why we
need someone to oppose america’s
global stranglehold & endless cycle
of war before there’s nothing left of this
earth to fight over c’mon rex old boy
rise from the dead & give us one last song



Then Your Pet Hamster

                                                                        burst into flames while
                                    running on his wheel
                                                            you claimed eyeballing
                        the fat persian next
            door licking a paw
                                                on the steps its black
                                                                        & white coat in your
                                    twisted vision singed
                                                            off but that prank got
                        fucked-up sideways &
            you burned down the house
                                                with the two spinsters
                                                                        asleep inside no
                                    one knew what you did
                                                            but each time you passed
                        you’d see them rising
            from the rubble like
                                                so much smoke their long
                                                                        gray faces nothing
                                    save cinder & soot
                                                            in high school you stood
                        outside mesmerized
            by humongous clouds
                                                spewing out blackened
                                                                        broken windows of
                                    what was usually
                                                            fourth period math
                        as firetrucks arrived
            with all the usual
                                                bells & whistles
                                                                        to battle the blaze
                                    the blonde reporter
                                                            said on live tv
                        with you over her
            shoulder like hitchcock
                                                in a cameo
                                                            details at six
                                   now everybody knew
                                                who you were sleeping
                                                                        with by the love burns
                                    left on arms & legs
                                                            although if it were
                        serious well let’s
            pretend it didn’t         
                                                reach that point often
                                                                        enough to merit
                                    further discussion
                                                            still the little fun-
            damentalist church
                                                prayed having survived
                                                                        the conflagration
                                    by the grace of god
                                                                                    transfigured into
                        jesus rays & rain
            that you’d wed for it’s
                                                better to marry
                                                                        reverend kendall read
                                    from the book of paul
                                                            splotchy palms lifted
                        toward the hole in the
            ceiling yet unfixed
                                                than to blah blah blah
                                                            & still the rumors
                                    ran rampant as kids
                                                                        through freshly raked piles
                        of leaves just begging
            for a match that you
                                                had not only dropped
                                                                        out of school but off
                                    the grid completely
                                                            but every now &
                        again you sent up
            a flare a factory
                                                explosion outside
                                                                        of town a homeless
                                    shelter burning down
                                                            on 6th avenue
                        a veritable
            inferno at an
                                                urgent care center
                                                                        out in the sticks &
                                    a series of fires
                                                            sweeping through the south-  
                        side like sherman’s lost
            ghost each incident
                                                by itself appeared
                                                            unrelated but
                                    if anybody
                                                                        bothered to connect
            the dots a picture
                                                of you would emerge
                                                            your head shaven like
                                    a tibetan monk
                                                                        that’s how you returned
                        home to the surprise
                                     of mom & pop who’d
                                                            rented your room to
                        help with the expenses
            since the neighborhood
                                                hardware store they’d run
                                                                        had gone up in smoke
                                    they apologized
                                                            profusely but you
                        declined waving your
            hand as if to say
                                                you understood the
                                                            night the house caught fire
                                    flames climbing the steps
                                                                        refusing to let
                        the boarder despite
            his insistent howls
                                                by they pushed him back
                                                                        pushed past the door to
                                                          his room your old room
                                                            ceiling collapsing
                        glass popping & danced
            round & round snapping
                                                breaking twisting &
                                                                        doing the jerk so loud
                                    were his piteous
                                                                                    shrieks you could hear them
                        from the other side
            of the street where you
                                                watched then just for kicks
                                                                        after the unnamed
                                    man pending police
                        of his family leapt
            out the window those
                                                crazy flames leapt too



Matt Morris

Matt Morris is the author of Nearing Narcoma, winner of the Main Street Rag Poetry Award (selected by Joy Harjo), and Walking in Chicago with a Suitcase in My Hand, published by Knut House Press.  His poems have appeared in various magazines and anthologies, including Unlikely Stories: Episode IV.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Friday, August 14, 2020 - 09:52