Mudlark Poster No. 104 (2012)

Some Rapport

We watched strangers in a graveyard
of historical significance pose their daughter

by a tombstone taller than she was
and snap a dozen pictures. And why

not. She glowed in the gust of its
ambient menace. Maybe they spend

entire vacations doing this, recording the way
she deflects grim proximities—

rocks that leer, coy precipices,
waterfalls breathing on her. Things

that should swallow her up
but don’t. Maybe a father’s job

is to build, or try to build, some rapport
with all such predators. Maybe that’s why,

in a massive hanger on D.C.’s outer rim,
my nephew’s father stood his son

beneath the Enola Gay, its taut silver belly
throwing that pretty light

on him. And took this. Look
at the sweet kid, beaming there. Look

at the plane smiling back.

To the Plastic Pink Fedora
on the Ground Behind the Catholic Church

Like all the overly confident you seemed
               insufficiently lonely
and ashamed, sitting there looking made

               to sit there, missing no body
in particular. I’m the hat, you preened, the ground
               was meant to wear, the earth

was forged to hold me up. But you are cheap,
               we said, and fake, lightweight,
extravagant—and we feel about you the way we feel

               about all false extravagant
people and books and magazines and Christmas trees
               and car commercials and friends

and family and strangers: Disapproval, and Disapproval’s
               bonus tracks, Panic
and Wonder—at the fact that you keep trying to sell us

               an ounce of something pretty,
something potent—keep nudging us, There are joys
               I might speak of

if only you darlings would listen. As though
               we haven’t been,
and hard, ever since our heads could turn,

               and hands cry,
               and eyes beat,
               and hearts clasp.


A thunderstorm tricks the streetlamps into blinking on
               so I wonder if you’re pregnant.
I have no evidence other than the streetlamps blinking on

               and the headaches I get every day
and for those to count there would have to be some tenuous
               diaphanous thread subtly linking

us over distance. The day before you left for Canada you saw,
               on the research triangle’s lonely
cone-strewn path, a dead goose, and wondered what it meant,

               so I told you—Don’t Go to Canada.
But you did, and lo and behold came back, in one piece, so
               I guess there’s no diaphanous thread,

no cruel etherous ribbon of logic linking you and me
               and the goose, one twinge, one pain
to another, making us signs of each other. The goose died,

               my head hurts, the rain breaks,
the streetlamps blink off, the phone doesn’t ring, a great V creaks
               and wobbles across the bedspread sky,

the phone doesn’t ring, the rain starts again, my head stops
               breaking, and nothing, I’m almost
positive that nothing, begins to divide itself in you.

The Labors of Night

When did we last see the stars
               throw down their old photons like spears—

                                                            got us a kid, a furnace of joy,
and never the same contraption twice

               will hoist her to the attic of sleep.
                                                            So when did we last see the stars—

what are stars—every night new
               beasts need reining and new knots inventing

                                                            to lash them to barges as yet
unbuilt, to import some tenuous

               volatile dream in glass still
                                                            boulders, in plastic still dinosaurs on

canals undug on water
               unwrung from pending clouds. But let us

                                                            emphasize the miracles: We are tongs
arranging the flames in a furnace

               of joy. Anvils don’t weep
                                                            when a hot tongue of new metal

licks and glories
               in the sparks all night. A grindstone stands

                                                            its ground when a raw new blade
angles into it, hungry for the edge

               it gives. Who needs stars—we are
                                                            tongs, we are anvils, we are stones,

singed by duty, darkened by
               our specialties, living in a darkness filled
                                                            with molten light. If we could go outside
on a winter night like this, like men

               punching out at the foundry,
                                                            our eyes would take forever to adjust

and see what we think we have missed,
               and what would we say except what we already say?  When

                                                            did we last see the stars, What are stars,
but a country of leftover fire,

                                            overthrown long before we were born?

Christopher Todd Matthews’ work has appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Crazyhorse, FIELD, The Gettysburg Review, Indiana Review, Massachusetts Review, and Shenandoah among other places.┬áHe lives with his partner and their daughter in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Copyright © Mudlark 2012
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