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Airea D. Matthews

Airea D. Matthews is the author of Simulacra (Yale University Press, 2017), selected by Carl Phillips as the winner of the 2016 Yale Series of Younger Poets. Matthews received an MFA from the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan. A Cave Canem Fellow and a Kresge Literary Arts Fellow, Matthews is a founding member of the Riven collective along with Marissa Johnson-Valenzuela and Cynthia Dewi Oka. She is an assistant professor at Bryn Mawr College, and lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

By This Poet


Confessions From Here

I left our window open most nights.  A man with winged ankles would visit while you slept. He'd ask about my doings, how the syrah finished, noticed the dimple on my chin when I smiled, touched the thick swell of my waist, lightly. When the wind whistled like the Northeast Corridor, he'd tongue the small of my back before leaving. After 2 most mornings. I wailed a tempest that last time. Flooded our basement. Asked him to stay or carry me over. He tucked me in the crook of his elbow and flew here. Where I am now.

When you woke the next morning, I imagine you thought it rained the night before. You called the plumber, didn't you?  To fix the basement, swollen from squalls?  Did you dig your fingernail under the blistering cinder? Check for mold? Did the walls crumble?  When you asked the children where their mother was? Did they shrug? Bounce my name between rooms? Weep into their porridge? If they beat their bare feet against the cracked tiles in the hallway, did you notice those tiny feathers sprouting from their Achilles?  Did you wrinkle your brow? Grab your shears?

Descent of the Composer

When I mention the ravages of now, I mean to say, then.
I mean to say the rough-hewn edges of time and space,
a continuum that folds back on itself in furtive attempts
to witness what was, what is, and what will be. But what

I actually mean is that time and space have rough-hewn edges.
Do I know this for sure? No, I’m no astrophysicist. I have yet
to witness what was, what is, and what will be. But what
I do know, I know well: bodies defying spatial constraint.

Do I know this for sure? No, I’m no scientist. I have yet
to prove that defiant bodies even exist as a theory; I offer
what I know. I know damn well my body craves the past tense,
a planet in chronic retrograde, searching for sun’s shadow.

As proof that defiant bodies exist in theory, I even offer
what key evidence I have: my life and Mercury’s swift orbits, or
two planets in chronic retrograde, searching for sun’s shadow.
Which is to say, two objects willfully disappearing from present         view.

Perhaps life is nothing more than swift solar orbits, or dual
folds along a continuum that collapse the end and the                          beginning,
which implies people can move in reverse, will their own                    vanishing;
or at least relive the ravages of then—right here, right now.

Temptation of the Composer

Oh Shepherd, our honeyed marriage
          bed in the meadow was too narrow
and though you herd wild things,
          you were deaf to my footsteps.
As you lay there in the dew of me, curled,
          satiated, I tiptoed backwards
toward our door under twisted reeds.
          Out where pasture led to brackish
waters and red-hot mists rose from quartz
          I lowered myself into rockpores
while rushing wings of screech owls
           seemed to sing: Welcome, Dark-Light
                                             Welcome, Wild-Love