Dialectic

Back then, I always felt I was on the edge
of something. A boulder half-drowned
in the Adriatic, a ridge overlooking the plains.
I was a pioneer and didn’t want to be.
In one dream I ran from tornadoes,
in another I floated through space,
out past Jupiter, body long gone,
looking around at the darkness, but with what eyes?
You can’t imagine that darkness. Nowadays
I wonder if fear is the appropriate response,
given that we are, after all, going nowhere.
Or not going anywhere. Words muddle.
Maybe we’re already ghosts and don’t know
my friend said while we were losing
our minds in the park. A month later,
huddled inside his Carhartt, he watched them
lower her body into the earth,
the poplar coffin touched by snow. No,
we must be here, because my phone keeps ringing,
the alarm on the egg-shaped clock on my desk
is always threatening to sing, and I can’t stop
saying I’m sorry, I’m running late for the dentist,
another conference with my student who never shows up.
Maybe he knows more than I do, sees the edge
clearly and doesn’t care, as he waters tomatoes
on the roof of his building, smokes a spliff midday,
lobs a balloon at a man’s third attempt to parallel park—
Forgive me, I’m just a collection of thoughts
that buzz like newborn wasps, the sum of affects
perpetually at war, never sure which one’s on top.
Even now, I’m elsewhere and running behind,
but you are waiting for me where the cobblestone path
winds down to the harbor’s edge. I head
for everything lit-up and distant. Aiming for you
and the sea, I cut through drifts of fog
that hang like tinsel on the Tennessee pines.

 

Matt Morton was a 2013 Finalist for the Ruth Lilly Fellowship. His poems appear or are forthcoming in Hayden’s Ferry ReviewSubtropicsWashington Square, and Tar River Poetry, among others. He lives and teaches in Baltimore, where he is an Owen Scholars Fellow at the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars.

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