Clay Matthews Poems




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.





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