Ode on a Lower-Midwestern Storm System
Third and final notice of the grievance filed
down to nearly nothing but a sharp point
some tattoo artist in Wichita uses
to spell out those last lines by Keats
on the lower back of a girl in lavender and leather
who wants to believe in something
she’ll never have to see again,
except backwards in the bathroom mirror.
If you reverse the order you’ll still come
to the same conclusion: a small pain (is truth
is beauty) is something to be worn
in a gothic font where the body hinges
to turn on itself. If you’re ever on I-35
you can see for yourself that pasture
is a green stretch of hip in the first person.
And when the cattle bawl they bawl
for the low thunder that all of us have felt
pass through our chest on its way
to rip apart a double-wide in upper Arkansas,
and break the hearts of everyone
who ever sat on the porch and dreamed
of never leaving. You see a blue line
makes every claim of ownership here.
As if to say you know these words
are not your own. Neither them nor the breeze
that lifts the back of the shirt and promises rain.
Clay Matthews has work published recently or forthcoming in No Tell Motel, Diner, Unpleasant Event Schedule, the tiny, and Best New Poets 2005. His chapbook, Muffler, is forthcoming from H_NGM_N B_ _KS in the fall of 2005. He currently serves as associate editor for the Cimarron Review while attending graduate school at Oklahoma State.