Welcome, Norm Mattox!

This month we are celebrating the titles that we’ve acquired over the past twelve months. Some of them, like the one we’re pleased to present today, came to us by way of Nomadic Press. Read more about our plans to welcome Nomadic Press titles to Black Lawrence Press here. Today we bring you Norm Mattox, whose forthcoming book Evaporating Rage will be published next summer. 

Have a manuscript you think we’d like? During our June Open Reading Period we are looking for poetry (chapbooks and full-length collections), short fiction (again, both chapbooks and full-length collections), novels, novellas, nonfiction (CNF, biography, cultural studies), anthology proposals, and translations from German. 



The Author

Norm Mattox is a poet. He served as a bilingual educator in the public school system of San Francisco Unified School District for over 30 years. Though retired, Norm is a teacher (‘maestro’ in Spanish) for life. His poetry is a journey through the voices that tell a story of love in a time of struggle and challenge.

Norm has shared his poetry as a featured reader, at open mics around the San Francisco Bay Area, select venues in New York City and other parts of the world across the ‘zoom universe’. Norm’s poetry has been published in two chapbooks. His first collection is titled, Get Home Safe, Poems for Crossing the Community Grid. Norm’s second chapbook length collection is titled, Black Calculus, published in 2021 by Nomadic Press. An audiobook by the same title was released in 2021.




On Writing Evaporating Rage

Why these poems? Why now?

It was almost 10 years ago, while reading through some essays written by and interviews with James Baldwin, when I came across this quote; “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a state of rage almost, almost all of the time…”

As a bilingual public school educator I could feel the stresses and the strain of working against those systems from within the education system. Writing my reflections in the forms of short essays and poetry became the “bones” for poems that comprise the “rage” portion of the work in this full collection of poems, Evaporating Rage, soon to be published by Black Lawrence Press.

Although many injustices and examples of inequity persist, retirement from the education system and writing poetry has helped me to dissipate the pent up rage that has roiled in my guts for most of my 30 year professional career. Evaporating Rage is a collection of poems that documents the tempest of our times and my navigation across shifting dimensions to be present in this moment. I am encouraged to express my encounters with inner voices that speak of the journey across my inner verses in search of love for self and others, joy for the simple things, and peace within the ongoing chaos of our times.




Selections from Evaporating Rage


my Black not blue enough?


as if

being ‘good’ or ‘bad’

makes one a ‘better’ victim

like this is a victim competition


as if 


is the measure of 

someone’s Blackness


as if

my trauma 

is forgettable 

when that’s all

my body remembers


as if 

doing time

being on probation

are normal time intervals 

between grades

between jobs

between generations 


as if 

hard times measured

the amount of struggle 

overcoming the myth  

american dreams sleep 

in Black minds


as if 

the facade of calm 

resembles compliance 

while it never belies 

the toxic burden 

of unrequited rage 

cooking my guts 

into a fricassé


as if 

my truth 

needed confirmation

by the ones

who never believe

a word i say,



as if 

my life

is a problem

that someone else 

has a solution for

and love is

the only answer.




Ancestral Diatribe


no one said it was simple

to put your hand on the doorknob    

scroll through the masks you wear    

so you can return home alive


revolution is not       a spin through

   your life cycle     a stationary bike      

going the speed of breathing

last breaths


evolution is change

at the mitochondrial  

                layer of consciousness    

unknowing    is not enough excuse

to sustain status quo


i believe dawn and dusk are instruction manuals we never read


we think we know              

how to live in         the light

of day,  

how to be light       in the dark

of night.


emotions     are like unplanned adventures    

mind plans bends time

 plots   a destination      

    becomes a map

crosses    internal oceans    

gets lost anyway


love is a journey we take to find

       our authentic selves

a reflection           an echo

of a love that resounds

      at humanity’s core


when i dare to be powerful      

step into vulnerable

wipe the sweat from my palms

bring unexpected to status quo

speak truth to authority      

step into the space that needs

my being not my doing



meditation threads


sitting         straight back        in the wooden desk chair

silent like meditation                steady breathing                       

eyes closed glaring at the back of my eyelids                

waiting for the tick tock

calendar pages turn


legs shifting            feet shaking      as

temperatures rise and       

feelings start to boil                       

slicing  like daggers thrown    from        

across the room        aimed at your eyes       

can’t see them coming          


having ‘thinking crazies’       

afraid of being seen          hoping to be obscured can’t

wrap your arms around that                 “i know crazy and

this ain’t it!  i’ve wrapped my arms around crazy                         

all i was hugging was me!”


push into vulnerability        

feeling safe enough  to fall into chaos

walking a fine line between          now and

never again                 

i stand up against         the wailing winds of trauma           

gusting cycles of fear        

    pain, horror

   sexual exploitation physical battering

      emotional abuse

psychological triggers

set like minefields


torched forests burned beyond recognition               

the body releases its carbon               

every rock overturned               

every wall crumbled       


trauma echoes resound   in the silent body 

that mind wears               like ill-fitting pajamas                           

makes us wear PTSD like calloused skin                  

broken bone scars scarred over                       


angers break my voice into fifteen shards of glass wood and

metal bearings         imploding inside a vest wearing a mask               

a quarter smile     turns into a dark, dangerous        

        terror filled stare                                       target shredded


survivors call for extra band-aids            to tape the tail on the donkey

me feeling like an ass          that i grew manhood out of wild seeds

thrown on fallow macho          tattooed with a mustache          expecting tree rings           without nurturing the ground     like you wanted something to grow