oh yes

Standard

Oh Yes
William Matthews
My hands, my fists, my small bells
of exact joy,
clappers cut out
because they have lied.

And your tongue:
like a burnt string
it holds its shape until
you try to lift it.

We’re sewn into each other
like money in a miser’s coat.
Don’t cry. Your wounds are
beautiful if you’ll love mine.

Photo by Ronald Smeets on Unsplash

the search party

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The Search Party
William Matthews
I wondered if the others felt
as heroic
and as safe: my unmangled family
slept while I slid uncertain feet ahead
behind my flashlight’s beam.
Stones, thick roots as twisted as
a ruined body,
what did I fear?
I hoped my batteries
had eight more lives
than the lost child.
I feared I’d find something.

Reader, by now you must be sure
you know just where we are,
deep in symbolic woods.
Irony, self-accusation,
someone else’s suffering.
The search is that of art.

You’re wrong, though it’s
an intelligent mistake.
There was a real lost child.
I don’t want to swaddle it
in metaphor.
I’m just a journalist
who can’t believe in objectivity.
I’m in these poems
because I’m in my life.
But I digress.
A man four volunteers
to the left of me
made the discovery.

We circled in like waves
returning to the parent shock.
You’ve read this far, you might as well
have been there too. Your eyes accuse
me of false chase. Come off it,
you’re the one who thought it wouldn’t
matter what we found.
Though we came with lights
and tongues thick in our heads,
the issue was a human life.
The child was still
alive. Admit you’re glad.

Photo by Sebastian Unrau on Unsplash

the cloister

Standard

The Cloister
William Matthews

The last light of a July evening drained
into the streets below: My love and I had hard
things to say and hear, and we sat over
wine, faltering, picking our words carefully.

The afternoon before I had lain across
my bed and my cat leapt up to lie
alongside me, purring and slowly
growing dozy. By this ritual I could

clear some clutter from my baroque brain.
And into that brief vacancy the image
of a horse cantered, coming straight to me,
and I knew it brought hard talk and hurt

and fear. How did we do? A medium job,
which is well above average. But because
she had opened her heart to me as far
as she did, I saw her fierce privacy,

like a gnarled, luxuriant tree all hung
with disappointments, and I knew
that to love her I must love the tree
and the nothing it cares for me.

Image (c) 2002 by Mitzi.humphrey used under CC BY-SA 4.0

 

misgivings

Standard

Misgivings
William Matthews
“Perhaps you’ll tire of me,” muses
my love, although she’s like a great city
to me, or a park that finds new
ways to wear each flounce of light
and investiture of weather.
Soil doesn’t tire of rain, I think,

but I know what she fears: plans warp,
planes explode, topsoil gets peeled away
by floods. And worse than what we can’t
control is what we could; those drab
scuttled marriages we shed so
gratefully may auger we’re on our own

for good reason. “Hi, honey,” chirps Dread
when I come through the door; “you’re home.”
Experience is a great teacher
of the value of experience,
its claustrophobic prudence,
its gloomy name-the-disasters-

in-advance charisma. Listen,
my wary one, it’s far too late
to unlove each other. Instead let’s cook
something elaborate and not
invite anyone to share it but eat it
all up very very slowly.

Photo by Dylan de Jonge on Unsplash