Poets

Search more than 3,000 biographies of contemporary and classic poets.

Matthew Siegel

Matthew Siegel is the author of Blood Work (University of Wisconsin Press, 2015), winner of the Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He teaches at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and lives in San Francisco, California.

By This Poet

5

At the Metropolitan Museum

I had sworn I wouldn’t write
another poem about my mom
but in the museum there is a room
filled with centuries-old pottery sherds
and it is difficult not to start seeing
symbols everywhere. We walk through
the frigid air toward a reconstructed
temple, likely stolen, I say, and she
looks at me. A rope keeps us from going
further. Who are you texting? she asks
and I want to scream but don't.
What question could she ask
that wouldn't make me bristle?
I once called our fights a kind of dance
in a poem I rightly tore up. I won’t
call it anything I tell myself in the poem
I told myself I wouldn’t write.
I’d change the subject but resistance
is a sign to go forward, I tell my students
because something is wrong with me.
So I go forward into what it might mean
to struggle a few hours with the one
who made me, whose dark I once lived
inside. We step into the centuries
between us and the vessels behind glass
which once held water, grain, and now
the silence of a light so gentle
as to not damage the precious things.

I See You in the Field of My Mind Baby Moo Cow

Your look makes me want to jump off the roof
of the modern art museum. How am I supposed
to tell you about my life? Yesterday I saw a turtle
eat a dandelion flower up close. I cannot say what
this might mean to you. It was on my phone,
which is where I’ve been living lately. I can’t expect
you to understand. I cry openly and you stare at me
with big wet cow-eyes. I tell you what the abyss is like.
I heard breathing. It was my own. I wasn’t terrified.
Loneliness binds me to myself but I use my phone
as a wedge, use it to keep myself from touching who
I am. Nobody wants to grow up, not even children.
They just want to be taller because they hate being
looked down upon. What is it we see when we turn
and look back? Salt? Pepper? I’ll take both. No more
questions. All I want is to sit in this field with you,
little cow, this field I built in my mind. I pet you, make
little noises. You try to move away but I hold on to you,
I throw my arms around your neck. You drop
your dark head, continue chewing what you chew.

[My pills doze until I wake them]

My pills doze until I wake them
on the shelf

behind the bathroom mirror,
the one I see myself in

curled over, whimpering,
eyes dark and heavy

like lakes at night.
My pills doze until I shake them

and they dissolve inside me,
make complicated arrangements

with my biology.
They sleep and I take them,

gathered in the cup of my hand.
They tick against my teeth

and I hold my hand over my mouth
as if to shut them up.