you are in the diode archives fall 2009




For three days I have seen sun and rain and now
snow falling but it has slowed to a blunder almost,
a blight. Winter. January 8th. I try to give the season
credit for its importance as one part of the cycle, thinking
pain is life, thinking pain is only weakness leaving the body,
thinking the cold is that which gives meaning to warmth,
our bodies finally finding each other in the morning
after a long night rolling one way and then the other
on either side of the bed. To divide and conquer. The division
is really all that’s needed you see the other is just aftermath
just war just silence just misunderstanding and today I fear
there is too much of this in the world I fear that we’re not getting it
right as people. I am not a dreamer like I used to be.
I don’t know if I believe in great things anymore
but that doesn’t mean great things can’t happen. When it was
April 7:30 and the sun was just going down and the streetlights
were coming on and the children were out in the streets
the neighbors with their dog, slapping at his mouth
while he barked, the two of us on the porch drinking something
on ice I don’t remember but I remember the cold of it going down
I remember asking St. Francis for the birds just a little bit longer.
These days it is more St. Anthony I call upon saying I think I have
lost my soul I think I have lost what I want to say, saying Tony, Tony,
Tony, please come around. The trees are so stark against the sky
today I feel a bit like I am living in a picture which is to say
I feel surreal and held in one place and held tenderly by the hand
of someone I once knew, folded and tucked away by someone else,
placed in one of those boxes we all have where we put
the things we cannot let go of, the things we want to keep
but not see, nor need to, and I think the heart is like that sometimes
that it holds distantly to what it might as well just let go.
I tell myself a thousand stories about myself. I tell myself You are
a good man, you are a bad man, you are wasting your life,
you are doing something right. From one day to the next
I am in love with myself or I am looking at myself disgusted
and tired of all the bullshit I repeat to one person after another
I meet on the streets or at family gatherings, all the same things
I have said over and over and over when wanting only to say
I really don’t want to talk or I really don’t even like you
or You are my family, my friend, why are we speaking
to each other like we haven’t known each other our whole lives,
like we weren’t there in that world of childhood together,
like we didn’t talk about girls or our lives in the future
or the big goddamn possibility of everything we might be
there is too little of that these days too little of you saying to me
I want more, I am not myself, of me saying to you I just want you
to not talk about the weather or the next president or all the children
even though I love the children we spend so much time outside
their world just looking in, the brothers and sisters and friends
and cousins, thinking Once life was that simple, once we smiled,
once we cried, once we ran through the house naked
with no thoughts of the windows or other humans no thoughts
of the real estate market except the large expanse of a room
as it stretched out in front, thinking I bet by god I can run
all the way to the other side. Now we run away, or rather
we do not run but we turn from each other very politely,
we spend a long time at doors and sometimes I have the urge
to say something very important to someone, sometimes
it is right on my tongue and I feel like I could make their life better
just by uttering a few words because people have done this thing
for me and I want to give it back and I can sometimes see
them wanting to give it back but we do not give it back, only
a hug which is the closest we can get or care to get or know how
anymore. We are real people. All grown up now. And I remember
going back to my hometown and running into some older woman
who knew me as a child, who I couldn’t remember if I wanted to
(and I do), who sees only the child in me held in a six-foot body,
sees not my mistakes, my faults, the ins and outs of thirty years
of making people proud and upsetting people, winning awards
and wrecking cars and doing drugs or staying sober they see
none of that, only the child as man, that mannish boy
and we have nothing at all to say to each other so they just stand
back and smile, and hug me as if I was something tender
enough to break, small enough not to notice, unless looking
very hard, very hard as I have grown older now to become.
And I think sometimes I am too much of a man being man.
I am too much jealousy, too much indifference, too much
paranoia as it comes on, too much guilt. I drag the guilt around
like a dead shadow, a heavy shadow, and sometimes
I don’t even know what I feel guilty for, only that it seems
I should, that it is my destiny. Day to day I am happy or hurting
or both and not knowing how not to be, not knowing how
to be everything I want to be for you, everything I feel like I can be,
everything I feel like we can all be for each other, goddamnit
I’m dreaming again, it seems again I am a dreamer, but I don’t care
today, I don’t even care about knowing how my caring comes to me,
how I care so much, how I do. Winter. I’m taking it for what it is.
The longest season, it seems. The darkest. The hardest
and by some accounts that makes it worth the most in the end,
worth every bit of blossoming I can stand.



The muggy heat of late May comes on, the day
after Memorial Weekend, a day

which seems inconsequential in context—
            I am not sure what to do with myself.

The ice cream shack down the road didn’t open back up
this year, this year the economy is bad, oh, so bad, so at the campsite
I was not surprised to find others there, like us

looking for a cheap vacation, some place for the kids
to ride their bikes without fear of fast cars and interstates,

some place, in short, to build a big fire and burn things.

The water bill, the grocery bill, the electric bill,
            they kind of take up this space on the table beside the door.

Today the mail runs again, and that’s often
what I look forward to most in a day. Perhaps

that is sad, perhaps I am sad, perhaps the sun
will shine on the garden in the back before another spring storm
            pushes through.

Go on and rain, goddamnit. I want everything
            to be green. There was a woman

blow-drying her hair at the campgrounds,
and it wasn’t right, we thought,

she shouldn’t be doing that,
there shouldn’t be RVs there bigger than our house, it shouldn’t be
                        that easy

to escape, to pack up and go, leaving all the comforts of home
for the comforts of not being home, in the sticks,
            with no grass to mow, no dishes to be done, no laundry,

only the sound of a crow cawing through the night high in a tree,
not so different than the mockingbird at home, still looking for a mate,

nothing so different at all, after all, as birds, and beds, and our hot bodies
touching each other, finding themselves too hot, rolling away

            to the other side of our dreams where we find each other
again, in the good and bad ways of that world.

You were saying something last night about controlling the mind,
laying there, before sleep, we were sticky and hungover,

tired, but not sleepy after the long afternoon nap,
after getting back from camping, after bbq because it felt necessary,

mid-morning beers, a little dip in the lake
which was the best part, the water so calm and cold, the day
just beginning, people skiing, canoeing, and you, swimming

out to the middle, saying, So, this is why people have boats.
            It was Memorial Day, after all, I want to remember,

to make the mind go as I ask it, back to each moment we were happy,
each moment tired, each moment dipping French fries into ketchup,

coleslaw falling all over the place, the ice cream we tried to make
on the porch that never set-up, I want to remember

you at the grocery store, the veterans handing out homemade forget-me-nots
for you to place in your hair,
            and in our planters at home, outside right now,

there are real forget-me-nots,
which turns out to be a wonderful name for a flower, I think,

            I think it turns out that lying in bed
doing nothing is substantial, a real important thing, even with the noise

of the many birds outside, the neighbors taking turns
riding a dirt bike through the night, so annoying, that buzz,

and the ceiling fan, and the stillness in between, such a holiday
as one boy after another flew by, the engine roaring,

riding for no good reason except to ride, as we sat
            in the darkness, a little unsettled, but each of us unable

not to smile at what we must give in to,
            not to jerk awake at some noise in the night,

before feeling safe enough to fall asleep again.  


Clay Matthewss work has been published or is forthcoming in The American Poetry Review, AGNI (online), Black Warrior Review, Gulf Coast, LIT, The Journal, Tarpaulin Sky, Columbia Poetry Review, New Orleans Review, and elsewhere. His two chapbooks are Muffler (H_NGM_N B_ _KS) and Western Reruns (available for free download online from End & Shelf Books). His first full-length collection, Superfecta, was released by Ghost Road Press in 2008. Currently, he is working as a post-doctoral teaching fellow in English at East Tennessee State University.