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I Wanted to Imagine Horses

It was the first dusk of autumn
so I abandoned my friends
beside the hearth
inside the rented cabin and walked
outside to discover again
there is no pact between me
and the moon, which on that night
not only wasn’t full
but had chosen to shirk entirely
its anti-darkness duties
like a student cutting algebra to star
in a pick-up game after lunch.
In the field of grass
in front of me, a pole
screwed to a metal hoop lay
prone like a child pretending to be
dead, struck by the invisible
arrow shot from
his friend’s invisible bow, just
as I felt struck by the visible
vacancy the no-moon made in the night.
It made me want to yell
Where are you moon
into outer space, the sky filling up
with gray and violet clouds, clouds
which being vapor are insentient
and have no reason
for moving, though this is something else
I forgot, watching them drift,
it seemed, significantly
downward to shroud the mountain
peak, as if to speak,
as if to reassure me
that standing still and searching
for the truant moon meant
something, precisely in its making
nothing happen. Summer
becoming fall, no moon.
That’s how it seemed.


Fever Dream

Here are your instructions.
Mother Nature, apparently,
has revised the curriculum again.
But change isn’t so bad,

so bad . . .  Still, there is this list
of chores to be tackled,
first of all to think
of the pesky snow collecting

in little white mounds
on the gutters and shingles.
And did you see the news? The paper
claims the morgue is to be

shut down for good. It’s all I can do
to try to keep
the variables straight, to blow up
the balloons, light the candles.

Sometimes it’s a bit like spelunking.
Sometimes it resembles pinball-bumpers
left on autopilot. It’s all the same
is an incorrect mantra

you will be tempted to adopt.
Help me, o stranger, I have abandoned
my true love in the garden.
Even now, lounging in my slippers, I feel

something grand is expected of me.



Storm coming soon so best we said our prayers.
Or better yet, get to dancing over the acres?
So difficult to parse what’s worth
the time each doing takes
when soon the cold will snow-festoon the land,
the blank sky all of a sudden husked
by the promised everlong nowhere lying down.
How sweet sometimes the cool forgetting feels…
But you know the awful electric stab
of waking up from a gold rush
dream and stumbling out to see the sight
of the rust-hewn gate, felled overnight
from its hinge. See them: the barbed wire
fence-line freighted with crows.
And yet the glass shards nonetheless of midnight
sparkle—stars of gleam and how high over the ranch.
Remember spring days racing burlap sacks?
Said unsaid nearly-empty-well feeling
burrowed hollowdown in your chest?
The sum of this the then, of course,
before we woke with a start and found
the vegetable garden a mess of vine and bramble,
and what passeth here now
for tangled overgrowth was once a rosebush.
Together we planted summers in the yard.
Alas for all the mildewed past,
and what I would very much like to be able to say
is do your worst, Sky, and we’ll fly
anyways tri-colored kites like airborne
Day-Glo dragons, like haloed whippoorwills, like…
Flightless gloaming, please
remain horizon-stuck a while, I have not chanced
to empty even half my bushel of songs.
How hard I have hoped for us all to not once disappear!
Dear father, dear stone’s-throw elkherd wanderer,
stop you now this practiced fading away.
I do not think the sun will smile again ever
if your going leaves merely
a man-shaped space, a small black hole in the air.
And you, o love, you caught uncatchable mare,
barefoot walking our makeshift northern pasture—
if now is only, and tomorrow comes lickety-
split without us having no matter a say,
then come to me now
with your fragile butcher paper hands,
your wind-harried leant-over cattail body,
your mind ablaze firing dawn wherever you move.
We are all-in, us two. We are
deepening royal blue with darkling hymns.
But where oh where will we roost
when it starts to snow and makes impassable muck
of our what-for gravel road through the crooked mountains?  


Matt Morton’s poems appear in Gulf CoastIndiana ReviewQuarterly WestWest Branch, and elsewhere. He has been a finalist for a Ruth Lilly Fellowship and a finalist in the Narrative Magazine 30 Below Story and Poetry Contest. Recently, Bob Hicok selected his poem “Windfall” as the winner of the Sycamore Review 2014 Wabash Prize for Poetry. He teaches creative writing and literature at Johns Hopkins University.