Matthue Roth

Never Say Die

The four of us goons
rode our bikes to the beach
It was the end of the earth
as far as land reached

Twelve years old but each
of us already had a death wish
We knew the familiar crush
of hard knuckles into tender flesh
Our stomachs were punching bags,
but our brains were
escape pods

In real life
we all had our Clark Kent moments
eating or wheezing or
talking too much

But when the lights went out,
dark swept over the land
and we hid in telephone booths

We became blood brothers
born in fire
nurtured by legends
hungry for pirates and adventure and
desperate to be anything else
Being poor was just an
excuse to keep dreaming

We were raised in the suburbs
force-fed must-see TV,
bland unspicy food and
chlorinated tap water but
We could taste the sea
in traces of salt that spread

through the cracks of reality
underneath our world
we knew what lurked

and our mouths burned with that
first taste of fiery coal
unable to drown out the flavor
of adventure

We crawled through the cracks
only to discover
we were the cracks

The kids that didn’t fit in
were the only ones capable
of saving the Goon Docks

And later, we’d start to drift
and still later, we’d start to live
finding ways to fit into Astoria
without giving up hope

Data got rid
of the Asian geek thing,
designed death-defying tricks on the trapeze totem pole
contorting and reforming
Everything he used to want
to build a robot for,
he now built himself

Mouth is still Mouth
but for different reasons

Brand fixes cars
with a poetry that poetry
can’t convey
comes home to a red-haired girlfriend
and three kids that all
look more like her than him,
thank God.
He’s happy.

Mikey’s a millionaire
with a program on the Discovery Channel
he never found love
but he was never really looking for it, anyway
he always just wanted
someone to listen
and never go away

We never had an adventure quite
as dangerous, crazy, and brilliant
as that Saturday afternoon in the cave
Never found the kind of perfection that comes
with death hot on your trail
two minutes left to live
Fratellis slugging bullets at your back
and the only thing to believe in
is yourself

Yeah, success doesn’t look as good on us
as dirt and mud and blood
but we learn to persevere
we make do

Through day jobs as dark and neverending
as a Tunnel of Doom
Gas bills more deadly
than a killer octopus
We won’t be one for the history books
That’s fine
We never read much
history anyway

We’re good, solid folks
in love with our lives
secretly disappointed
in the cars we drive
and that our kids look like us

but loving the simple pleasures
a cold soda in summer
the fireplace we built ourselves
and the way our daughters lurch
on the jungle gym ladder

we may be

our midlife crises
never end in suicide
not because that would be a contradiction

but because Goonies
never say die

Matthue Roth is the author of the novel Never Mind the Goldbergs, an NYPL Best Book for the Teen Age, and the upcoming picture book My First Kafka. He's currently a video game designer during the day and attends graduate school by night at Brooklyn College. He lives in Brooklyn and keeps a secret diary at

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