Fool’s Gold

This morning I love everyone,
even Jerome, the neighbor I hate,
and the sun. And the sun

has pre-warmed my bucket seat 
for the drive up Arsenal Street 
with the hot car effect, 

a phenomenon climatologists
use to explain global warming
to senators and kids.

I love the limited edition
Swingline gold stapler
in the oil change lounge

which can, like a poem,
affix anything to anything
on paper. One sheet of paper,

for instance, for that cloud of gnats,
one for this lady’s pit mix
wagging his tail so violently

I fear he’ll hurt his hips. 
One sheet for glittered lip balm,
for eye contact, Bitcoin extortion

and the imperfect tense. 
Sheets for each unfulfilled wish
I left in a penny in a mall fountain.

Sun spills into the lounge 
through the window decal
in geometric Tetris wedges.

I have a sheet for Tetris,
its random sequence of pieces
falling toward me in this well

like color coded aspects of the life
I neglected to live, for the pleasure
of making line after line

disappear. The gold stapler
has twenty-sheet capacity
so I straighten my stack

on the reception counter
and staple the day together
with an echoing chunk.

More by Ted Mathys

The National Interest

We are interested in long criminal histories
because we've never bedded down in a cellblock.
With the sibilance of wind through the swaying
spires of skyscrapers as my witness. When I say 
cover your grenades I mean it's going to rain I mean
there is mischief in every filibuster of sun.

We are interested in rigorously arranging 
emotions by color as we've never been fully
divested of blues. With drinking till my fingernails
hurt as my witness, with hurt as my witness.
When I say be demanding I mean be fully
individual while dissolving in the crowd.

We are interested in characters who murder
because we've never committed it or to it.
With an origami frog in a vellum crown spinning
on a fishing line from the ceiling as my witness.
When I say please kneel with me I mean between
every shadow and sad lack falls a word.

We are interested in ceaselessly setting floor joists
because we've never pulled a pole barn spike
from a foot. With bowing to soap your ankles
in the shower as my witness, lather as my witness.
When I say did you see the freckle in her iris I mean
the poem must reclaim the nature of surveillance.

We are interested in possessing others who possess
that which we possess but fear losing in the future.
With a fork as my witness. A dollop of ketchup,
hash brown, motion, with teeth as my witness.
When I say you I don't mean me I don't mean
an exact you I mean a composite you I mean God.

We are interested in God because we can't 
possess God, because we can't possess you. 
With a scrum of meatheads in IZOD ogling iPods
as my witness, technological progress as my witness.
When I say no such thing as progress in art I mean
"These fragments I have shored against my ruins"

We are interested in ambivalence as ribcages
resist being down when down, up when up.
With the swell of the argument and the moment
before forgiveness as my witness. When I say power
is exclusion I mean a box of rocks we don't
desire to deduce I mean knowing is never enough. 

Appalachian Trail

I am in the 
main on the 

mend I am in 
Maine on the 

wagon on 
Katahdin in 

an animal
skin I am a 

pencilmaker 
breaking 

a stolen mirror 
metaphor over 

the peak to 
make Maine 

lakes glint in 
sun I broke 

like a main 
clause over 

the forest of the 
page and paused 

to drink from a
literal canteen

Let Muddy Water Sit and It Grows Clear

It’s clear when, in membranous
              predawn blue
I enter pines, mind on
              embryo in amnion,

my tracks preceded
              by those of the dog,
his by a doe’s, hers by six
              hours of snow, it’s clear then

the distance between
              my affections and ability
to touch their sinuosity 
              is itself a felt silence 

called sun. Sun rises
              without provocation
over a frozen stream that frustrates
              reflection, but will

by the time a pulse is palpable,
              have thawed and grown 
clear again, permitting me to see
              a tree surface, distort, flow.

Related Poems

A Poem as Long as California

This is my pastoral: that used-car lot
where someone read Song of Myself over the loudspeaker

all afternoon, to customers who walked among the cars
mostly absent to what they heard,

except for the one or two who looked up
into the air, as though they recognized the reckless phrases

hovering there with the colored streamers,
their faces suddenly loose with a dreamy attention.

This is also my pastoral: once a week,
in the apartment above, the prayer group that would chant

for a sustained hour. I never saw them,
I didn’t know the words they sang, but I could feel

my breath running heavy or light
as the hour’s abstract narrative unfolded, rising and falling

like cicadas, sometimes changing in abrupt
turns of speed, as though a new cantor had taken the lead.

And this, too, is my pastoral: reading in my car
in the supermarket parking lot, reading the Spicer poem

where he wants to write a poem as long
as California. It was cold in the car, then it was too dark.

Why had I been so forlorn, when there was so much
just beyond, leaning into life? Even the cart

humped on a concrete island, the left-behind grapefruit
in the basket like a lost green sun.

And this is my pastoral: reading again and again
the paragraph in the novel by DeLillo where the family eats

the takeout fried chicken in their car,
not talking, trading the parts of the meal among themselves

in a primal choreography, a softly single consciousness,
while outside, everything stumbled apart,

the grim world pastoralizing their heavy coats,
the car’s windows, their breath and hands, the grease.

If, by pastoral, we mean a kind of peace,
this is my pastoral: walking up Grand Avenue, down Sixth

Avenue, up Charing Cross Road, down Canal,
then up Valencia, all the way back to Agua Dulce Street,

the street of my childhood, terrifying with roaring trucks
and stray dogs, but whose cold sweetness

flowed night and day from the artesian well at the corner,
where the poor got their water. And this is

also my pastoral: in 1502, when Albrecht Dürer painted
the young hare, he painted into its eye

the window of his studio. The hare is the color
of a winter meadow, brown and gold, each strand of fur

like a slip of grass holding an exact amount
of the season’s voltage. And the window within the eye,

which you don’t see until you see, is white as a winter sky,
though you know it is joy that is held there.

Forsythe Avenue Haibun

Only a few people and three alley cats remember when the house was gray, not yellow. A pair of empty swing sets at the schoolyard rock themselves to sleep for a late-afternoon nap. A blue dog used to trot on top of little ginkgo fans confettied on the sidewalk like he showed up too late to a parade. Farther down the avenue is a baby who seems to lose her pacifier each day around seven o’clock. Tulip bulbs that a girl once planted and sprinkled with pepper flakes have all been scratched up by brave squirrels who now strut the street with tiny blistered mouths. When they chew chickadee wing in their wet, hot mouths, the alley cats become accomplices. This is her legacy. Her footprints are everywhere:

every gate is her
red mouth on fire—birds want
to speak but cannot

Three Dimensions

Several small houses
Discreetly separated by foliage
And the night—
Maintaining their several identities
By light

Which fills the inside of each—
Not as masses they stand
But as walls
Enclosing and excluding
Like shawls

About little old women—
What mystery hides within
What curiosity lurks without
One the other
Knows nothing about.