The Caretaker

Mathias Svalina

One must take care of the severed heads piled in the center of the church. People do not want their heads, after they are dead, to rot. The flowers may wither & the oaks attract the flame, but a head is a head for as long as it stays free of rot. When the severed heads speak they often say things like “Thanks, dude.” Only rarely does one find an ungracious severed head. They whine “Where is my breath?” “Where are those who promised to remember me?” Some of the caretakers put things in the mouths of the ungracious severed heads: muscle relaxers, a single long black hair, their dicks. But one should maintain composure. It is difficult to be a severed head, blinking constantly over drying & then dried eyes, tourists poking at the distended tongue, flashing snapshots like tigers’ stripes. At night, after the church closes & the neon lights have chilled, one must take the softest brush to each head individually. One must cradle the severed head in one hand, resting it on one’s knees, look closely at every part of it, searching for the rot that inevitably will appear.


Mathias Svalina is the author of one book of prose, I Am A Very Productive Entrepreneur (Mud Luscious, 2011), & two books of poetry, Destruction Myth (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2009) & The Explosions (Subito, 2012). With Alisa Heinzman & Zachary Schomburg, he co-edits Octopus Books.