Dec. 13, 2010: A LIFE OF CRIME (William Matthews)


In the past 6 months I’ve put 15,000 miles on my odometer, moved
across 7 states twice, seen the Pacific Ocean, been to the dead center
of the Midwest, thrown in NYC, DC, Nashville, and NOLA for good
measure. Here’s a poem for all of us in our far-flung climes,
hunkering down for the winter, but knowing all our old acquaintances
are as close as we remember them.

Born in Cincinnati, William Matthews went to Yale and then on to UNC,
and served as a writer-in-residence at many colleges, including
Boston’s Emerson. Critics think that his poetry is not of a
knock-you-down sort, and while it does not glitter or dazzle, it sheds
a steady light. He died too young at 55. -ed.


Frail friends, I love you all!
Maybe that’s the trouble,
storm in the eye of a storm.
Everyone wants too much.
Instead we gratefully accept
some stylized despair:

suitcoats left hanging
on folding chairs, snow falling
inside a phonebooth, cows
scouring some sad pasture.
You know the sort of landscape,
all sensibility and no trees.

Nothing but space, a little
distance between friends.
As if loneliness didn’t make us
responsible, and want accomplices.
Better to drink at home
than to fall down in bars.

Or to read all night a novel
with missing heirs, 513 pages
in ten-point type, and lay my body
down, a snarl of urges
orbited by blood,
dreaming of others.

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