Clay Matthews lives in Bluff City, Tennessee, and teaches at East Tennessee State University. He is author of two poetry chapbooks and two full-length collections: Superfecta (Ghost Road Press) and RUNOFF (BlazeVOX). His poems have appeared widely, including The American Poetry Reivew, AGNI (online), Black Warrior Review, Gulf Coast, Willow Springs, and The Journal.
Rusted mailboxes, and the fences keep
cutting the shadows into small diamonds.
I wear a white shirt, it is cool. Down deep
under the ground sometimes a river runs,
old, dark, wet. I suppose there are thousands
of things I know nothing about. Metal
and oxidation, for instance. The winds
as they turn the tulips into several
different directions. Wear can make an old
thing beautiful, it can drop a bridge down
to its knees in the low water, so cold
that it weeps with the ivy, wild and grown
all over everything, the fence, the post,
the brother flowing underground, the lost.
Cold streets and a cigarette. I have found
I return to certain things. The mornings,
for instance. A desire for streetlights wound
up in a larger desire for big things
to happen. And the radio preacher
says Through great God big things can happen! But
I don’t know about god, only weather,
lightning, the sound of wind shaking trees shut.
I open, and they seem to speak through their
leaves. We all go away, and that is a
hard thing to deal with. I look out to where
the people walk the roads, with dogs, with the
promise of everlasting life, tin cans,
children, mail boxes, thinking: it happens.
Mid-week and we plant flowers. Not flowers,
but seeds. I can’t ever really decide
if there’s a difference. Is there a space, there,
between the sun and rain, the clouds that hide
the cosmos of a thousand beautiful
things behind them. Two bucks at the check-out
line, a bit of dirt, water, and boom: you
have made something worth making. I could shout
for love if that were the right thing to do.
Frost fades away. The asphalt takes on its
edges the grass like a child on the new
hem of a woman’s dress. I say, please, let’s
not forget about the small things. You say,
please, now, let’s not forget things either way.