Clay Matthews has work published recently or forthcoming in Good
Foot, Melic Review, Cape Rock, Diagram, Mudlark, storySouth, MiPo,
Mississippi Review and elsewhere. He serves as associate editor for
the Cimarron Review while pursuing a Ph.D. at Oklahoma State, USA.
The radio cracked and buzzed,
the Rolling Stones singing Let's
spend the night together while I
pulled leaves from your hair
and burned them with matches
one by one until my fingers
were black and the air smelled
like a Saturday with football on
in the background. You looked
at the eve of the roof and the Chrysler's
flat tire and not me and for that
I felt like a photograph in the background
of some black and white film, the en
of the mis-en-scene if you will,
or won't, it doesn't much matter
either way. Harry said something
once about how we were like two peas
in a pod, and I agreed, except for
there being more than two peas
in a pod. Once you smelt like the river
and for that I loved you. Once you
tasted like canned soup and for that
I wanted a bigger spoon. The radio
buzzed again and I played with the hanger
that masqueraded as an antennae.
I have masqueraded as a cold pillow
and slippers by the bedroom door.
I have worn the white sheets and acted
as a ghost when you walked into the house.
Every time I watch a good movie now
I look in the mirror and think about
changing my hair. I'd let you cut it, if you
asked. I'd let you turn me into something
handsome, dark and tall.
Litany for Yellow Dog
Dogwood blossoms and so now the third day, and still
the neighbor's yellow dog lies rotting on the asphalt,
a tire track between that heavy head and two long legs
moments from forever and the collie up the road.
And so now I remember that head in my lap,
like some present you keep still when you don't know
if you're to open it or wait. And so now the semis
make no sign of flinching, the neighbors
no sign of being sad. And so now yards
are being mowed, hedges trimmed, the great unveiling
of what we talk about with our hands when we don't know
what else to say. And so now the yellow dog in two
pieces. And so now the blue collar. Now the flies,
and those tiny eyes, searching a thousand directions.
Where Reckoning Meets Pavement
And so you have come to know things about me
you wish you didn't. Our history of deeds done
in the dark pool of memory that sucked the brown dog
under like a custard. In a pickup bed, where all
the old stories seem to have gone now, or been
dumped, or thrown, the pitchfork worked back to shine.
Hank Locklin sings Please help me I'm fallin'
and out of the corner of my eye sometimes I can see
the Devil walking through the corn and up
to Highway 61. Where was it we sat in the middle of night,
our backs to the old church Johnny Martin
would blow-up with a pipe bomb? When was it
the Devil showed up in black boots and a bolo tie?
There's a who left yet. And what. And why.
How did my name go red in that little book,
the Cadillac title, the lotto ticket, the late night in St. Louis
we both stared at the nine millimeter in the gun shop
and let loose what we thought we were really capable of.
My feet hurt. My knee, buckled. My hair's going
coarse and painful. I've been riding in the Devil's pocket
too long, beat a thousand times over by the jingle
of bone keys. Sometimes, though, he takes me
out, lets me run a stretch of asphalt, even get winded
before he grabs me with those long fingernails and dances.
Sometimes it's good with him, when the world falls
in front of me like a ham hock, and I can eat
where the meat has gone old and tender. And still
I miss the once upon a time, young and dumb and bowed
for a fight. The confidence man turned con man. Chest out.
Fists up. I am more than this. I am this. I burn.
A Slight Variation on Sympathy
Four long years, brother, and where has the devil gone?
Remember the way the Mississippi filled up and flooded
out its brown ears, the sound of shotguns and something
drowning under a pile of driftwood.
We were watching Cool Hand Luke and wondering where
all the eggs went. You wore sunglasses on your knee
and for a minute it looked just like Uncle Charles.
But the days of the Uncle are over. Long live the Uncle.
And the patch of sassafras where I first fell in love
with a black cricket. Sometimes Satan he would come to me
when you left, and I would call him Devil, and toast him
with bourbon until he scurried off into the wood's edge like a opossum.
Sometimes I sent pennies into the river on logs, and followed
their shadow until I could no longer see, that steady sound
of barges butting against each other. I'm still waiting
for Paul Newman to come out with pickled eggs.
I'm still waiting for the Devil to show up in a blue Cadillac and say
lets go steal some melons. I would ask you to come, if you
were here. I would ask you to stick around 'til morning,
where the seeds cover the ground, and the crows pick the rind.
Back to Front.