David Matthews – Three Poems

I Could Swear I Hear Song

There is a morning bus
with women bound
for work and school,
for all I know, perhaps,
romantic rendezvous,
baristas and bank clerks,
anarchists, interns,
teachers, gurus, CPAs,
art students, attorneys,
hooligan babes.

Complexion latino, Nordic,
ruddy, café au lait, noir,
hair blonde and gray,
blue streakt, pink, henna colored, green,
braided, curled, pony-tailed, buzzed,
arms and legs tattooed,
ears and eyebrows pierced,
and not tattooed, not pierced,
brightly colored scarves furled
around pale necks,
suits, leather jackets, jeans,
long, loose-fitting dresses,
short, tight skirts,
barelegged, black tights, fishnets,
running shoes, boots, heels,
they are tough and tender-eyed,
laconic, laid-back, loony,
reticent, somber, thoughtful, gay,
hip, nonchalant, chic,
toting backpacks, book bags, yoga mats,
intent on graphic novels,
zombies, Zadie Smith,
collected works of Adrienne Rich,
anatomy books,
sketchpads, iPhones.
Thumbs twitch in syncopated frenzy
texting and twitting and gaming.
What secrets do they share?
what gossip? what banality?
what intimations of beauty?

They are my age
and my niece’s age
and my niece’s daughter’s age.
If they notice me at all,
it is only in passing.
This is as it should be.
What matters,
I am not dead to their charms
nor immune to their mystery,
desire no more dead in this heart
than in those hearts that beat
with the rhythm of the river,
the trochaic wash of wave onto shore,
the fall of light onto page,
the rhyme of leaves
shivering with amaze.

Across the bridge
curling in to the city center,
they gather their things,
button coats, zip jackets, pull scarves tight,
pour from the bus at each stop,
heels clacking along shadowed sidewalks,
across broad plazas, past
food carts and opium dens,
bound for whatever beyond
the day may hold.
I could swear I hear song
that stains blue the air
and catches winter light
the wind blows back across the river
with tambourines and guitars
that glint in morning sun
and quiver with yearning.


Each Month Has Its Fill

Each month has its fill of cruelty
and knows its herald of beauty.
Tonight when stars milkdust the sky,
the tears of October wait me
like an audience
with the Doge of Venice.

I measure out vials of meteor blood
to mark the darkness with delirium.
Contemplation of penguin insanity
would be redundant.
I just might paint
a lipstick moustache
on the blue lobster
Doug Spangle
keeps under his cap,

or in the spirit of Werner Herzog
cross a continent on foot
to propose surrealism
to the woman I love,
who alone has power to make me laugh
and delivers me
from those things that hurt this heart

with her gift of Chinese lanterns,
her lucky cello,
the bluegreen scarf that glimmers in the sun.



Once the secret vault lay open.
Scraps of rag and silk
poured out color mixed
from vagabond rainbows
and dust of angel bones.

A caravan composed
of all the instruments
of the orchestra,
played by dwarves
and nuns on unicycles,
traversed the city,
avenue by avenue,
boulevard by boulevard.

Fantastic doorways beckoning entry
looked out on plazas and fountains
where brightly colored breasts
sprayed diamond-sparks of water
high into the air
above all this marvelous panorama.

Gangs of schoolgirls
in blue kneesocks
drank in lattes and poems
of Dickinson and Rimbaud,
while the distant trill of carnival
fused with evening’s soft and dimming light,
an uncanny turn
of melancholy and gaiety
transported onto canvas
by sidewalk painters
from another century.

Bohemian intellectuals
in red berets and yellow scarves
gathered at cafés and at chessboards
where they renewed acquaintance
with Marx and Freud,
deconstructed deconstruction,
pondered Pynchon,
wondered whatever became
of the revolution that never came,
sidetracked by discotheques and feather boas,
a taste for designer jeans,
vintage wine, artisan cheese,
caviar, cocaine, self-realization,
as sophomores in thrall to Ayn Rand
flipped houses and blew market bubbles
out their improbably collective ass,
while the night blackened.

Beneath the outraged sky,
beyond the darkened realm
of all we might have been,
evening’s promise betrayed by morning light,
I continued on my way,
in trance or in guilt, who might say,
my nature leading me
on some strange quest
I could not fathom then,
nor can I now.