For A Boy in Matli
Patrick Johnson

I watch as they compile all the data and study the state of your face:
       after diagnosis (Figure 1);
       when you prove their hypothesis (Figure 2);
       after you have gone without food (Figure 3).

Your hair like an eleventh hour.

For once I can hear death’s delegation, coughing, arrive.

If you could tell us, what would you say:
       that the worst was when they diagrammed you starting to fear air?
       or the video—your father tilts the cup of liquid back into your mouth,
           when the water was a rabid dog, a stretch of fire?

Then you’re our image on the projector screen at the Conference of Pain.

Is this what made me come to envy you?

You’re so far from me.

I can’t take my eyes off you. I can’t take my eyes off you.

Patrick Johnson received his MFA from Washington University in St. Louis in 2014. "For a Boy in Matli" appears in his collection of poems and short nonfiction on the deep internet, "Gatekeeper." Other manuscript projects include a series of essays on Black music. He currently works in the Emergency Department at a hospital while preparing for a career as a physician's assistant.