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Ted Mathys

Ted Mathys is the author of Null Set (Coffee House Press, 2015). He teaches at Saint Louis University and lives in Saint Louis.

By This Poet

4

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.