Matthew Ussia

Out to Lunch

It’s like my buddy Mort
the former paramedic told me
If they don’t die in bed
they die on the shitter
and the worst part is
they always fall on the narrow side
always wedged between bowl and wall
and no, they never get to them
before rigor mortis sets in
it’s like the Murphy’s Law of
body recovery he tells me

and let’s face it
even if I take my doctor’s advice
about diet and exercise
I’m leaving an awful lot of corpse
that someone’s going to have to deal with

which is why a quasar or
roaming black hole is the way I want to go
crushed to nothing
a cloud of superheated gas
astronomical events mean
quick and easy cleanup

and here’s the other thing
I’m not so sure about this whole
that I’m hearing about more and more
when folks talk about the future

if I cared about future generations
I would have had kids
but instead, there will just be
all those people breathing air
having sex and hopes and happiness
I’m just not so sure about all of it

this goes for you too
say you’ve read some of my work
had me for class, knew me personally
sure, you’ll be sad for a bit
then one day you’ll go out to lunch
and you’ll say to the waitress
I think I’ll have the tuna melt
and I’m still going to be dead
and that’s bullshit.


What Diane Said to Me on My First Day

The job of ocean freight forwarder seemed easy enough
I was supposed to call people after people called people who called people who I called after people called me after I called them to see if they got my fax so they could call people who could call the people who moved the cargo
and some data entry

cupcake interview arranged by my future sister-in-law and I was in
a big boy in the big city job
fresh off the SEPTA train in a new shirt
as freshly pressed as my college diploma
and ready to do some serious business

a less than container load of lubricating oil to Dubai here
surfactants to Singapore there and some
magnesium medal power that explodes if it gets wet
all sailing the ocean blue

I called the people who called the people who called the people who called the people who told the people to move the thing

lunchtime walks past the Liberty Bell
it was easy enough
except when it wasn’t

then we all started yelling

the dot-matrix printer jammed hourly
I told the dispatcher Elizabeth when I meant Marcus Hook
and this was all before I knew
a forwarder’s spelling mistake once killed a guy in Baltimore

And on my first day
I dropped a bill of lading off at Diane’s cubical
and the office matriarch with the homemade retirement countdown calendar
puts down the phone when she sees me approach:
Hey, you the new guy?
puts her hand over the receiver before I can answer:
Listen, do yourself a favor and get the hell out of this business before you’re too old to do something with your life, okay?


Matthew Ussia is a professor, editor, podcaster, thereminist, writer, softcore punk, social media burnout, and all-around sentient organic matter.  His first book of poetry, The Red Glass Cat, was published by Alien Buddha Press in 2021.  His writings have appeared in Mister Rogers and Philosophy, Anti-Heroin Chic, Winedrunk Sidewalk, Future Humans in Fiction and Film, North of Oxford, and The Open Mic of the Air Podcast among others.  He is co-editor of The Dreamers Anthology: Writing Inspired by the Lives of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Anne Frank and Recasting Masculinity.  His Theremonster alter ego performs doom metal on a theremin.  Matt sang backup on the Silence LP The Countdown’s Begun.  He lives in Pittsburgh.   More info can be found at