Poetry Issue 24


Philip Matthews

Crown and Crowning

Fatty wind I walk into, hand
Over my belly. As the cattle inside me moves.
I give it a name. Tongue resting outside of its owner.
My brain like opening to rainfall. Pine branch twist.
Gristle root. What could be inherited I curb,
Ancestral grief at the wrist I encircle with copper.
Violet light panned from beneath this skull’s root.
What winds between the vertebrae
Forming in my belly. Hooves floating, waiting
To snap to the earth. Belly held over the swan’s
Neck, pathetic and strong, from which I extend
A foot, a leg, a garter and voice
Expansive across the shoreline. Sister birds cut
Into the water. Cyclical shell. Dirty, flung flute.

Shell and flute. Shell and glimpse into the oracle
Of grieving, slick hands silver at the water bowl’s
Rim. Body that is mine, raving, epileptic
Through lightning-thumped branches. At sea, in it,
I am cutting two lungs with my legs, if I think
About the sea the way the ancients did. I do.
I cock a river, discharge tide-light
Like a girl left holding the crack-bag.
Underneath me, a lilac is speaking,
Split off at the tendril from sunlight,
Thick, written tendril from chest, unfurled into the world’s
Six griefs. I yank back the dog wanting to run.
My son digs for crabs at his shins, inside me,
Uncovered from a crystalline shell.

Soft fire, photographer, uncovered from the crystalline shell.
Dirty sheep
Backing haunches into green-light of hills
Before storming. And are we permitted to be here?
As the sky comes plummeting under,
Violent rain, and the grass throwing up
Spiked energy. In the bank of the crystalline ship.
In the wrong of the crystalline place, eyes squinting,
Gamey, spun out, in orbit,
Bashing into each other’s wood sides. We, like fists, do this,
Dust knotted up in our knuckles.
Here is the mason. Here is the honed wave’s
Crest. Here is the black-eyed boy, name
Written in wood. Again. Again. Like we are married to it.

I am married to two angels, one conquered
In the ash-pit, elbows shined, two small ships
Of blood. And the audience set at the glass doors
Pushing in limelight to see.
I walk away quickly. I see the slight
Where witness is buried,
And a lilac tree grows from the ashes.
For decades. There from the muck of me,
My son’s liver / wishes / livery
Dangling like carrots. The little meats of him,
Costumed and sent out for silvering. I hated /
Watched him then. I could feel him
Under every cell of my skin,
Knees wedged in like a table.

Knees wedged in like a table. The altar
Is set to eat. I will serve you
As my father served me.
A stream of requests on your behalf:
For schools, for nannies, for chefs,
For a woman with a crooked eye I will make you call
Grandmother, for petty, pretty things,
And I will keep my hand close
To your scalpel. I mean: skull, photographer. Cupped.
It will be days before I look at you again.
For all you are, you could be a dingy carton of eggs
In your bedclothes, in your day clothes,
Fizzing quietly. I admire the nurses’ knuckles
When they bring you in. Strange, stripped suns.

Strange, stippled sun, a fist of white petals.
A school. A nanny. A question. A turtle fit to bursting
Like a slowly unfurling hydrangea. I study its back
Like a menu, lifting the tendrils of creek. Small water,
Big water, what I say about the sea’s push
Of climate, oil spill spreading like a lung
To the place the throat will feather,
And something, eagle-headed, sprung,
Thrusts hands into the small sprouts that feed us.
Holding open a cancerous alley, brain
Of an upset shock. The surface of a mussel-green
Molly fossil. And money and memory
Embedded in a single money’s belly.
Voices a double surface from underneath which:

(Godly)              A voice bellows over the bath.
A mechanic nanny gives instructions
From a silver disk. I am meant to lay my son in like this, turtle shell
Wrapped in myrrh-sheets, mouth empty of water.
Contract laid between us
We are aware of as we sit down to breakfast. His limbs
Begin to grow, I hold him out. His limbs
Begin to shrink, I bathe him. It is a program
For which I am made, from which I am made
For this meat. He cries and he dreams
And is chastened. Five swords are plunged
Through his heart. He will pull a plan from his heart.
He will pull a cradle from his gut.
He will pull a servant from his head.

If Athena were to say back to the head,
I’m freer than I have been, in a wave
Of father’s pain, farther from the shoreline (torture)
Of insight and precision
, the head would listen.
Off across the way, a tithing (galaxy)
Whose gulls dive for silver sine-lines of fish
Arcing their hooked bellies to glinting. (Gills)
Like false teeth. From over the boat’s edge,
Many hands reach in, pull in
The net like a father’s weight. Farther off,
Forearms, and the peeling back of knives against ice beds,
Noon-light burning the shack. Who press (down)
Thin mirrors to the walls and watch
The fish heads being piled up like weights, nickel-like.

My figure held to nickel-light,
If I look right at the camera, photographer,
Blown open reflecting white orbs
And the confident orbit of plenty,
As even at my poorest, I am bushel-brained,
Every fiber translucent and yellow,
As even at a distance, I am outlined in gold
Like the dream of a lightning-struck house,
A shock of plant life and downpour,
A world red and expensive, placed credit
To my forehead, pressed forehead
To machines, streamed brain like a river to rainfall:
I will fly. I will eat and be touched.
I will my match my name up with yours.

What will he do with my fingertips?
What will he do with my face?
All around me I am seeing, I am.
Off my perineum as the light will catch it,
I pluck a rooster, pick a finger.
(Godly) A voice bellows over the bath.
I lay down white petals and breasts.
I lay my hands and face at his feet
If according to this king’s will.
His fibrous ribs. He is also, easily, killed,
Extended to grut. In bowls of bled water,
With a pimple at his breast-wing, thimbled leg.
I am married to two angels, one flying forward.
I will match my name up with his.

Around the house my son is seeing
Lines of girls in Sunday dresses with dirty stockings and shoes.
They are putting candy in his mouth.
They are coming in with metal tools,
Overlarge for their branches.
And what are they pinning now in his hands
That he is screaming starry-murder. I am not right with it.
For something to do, I rearrange the lights
On the table (utensils). I am not watching
When my son dies. Light in the roots. Light in the fire.
Light in the charred bird’s beak. Light in the limestone.
Light underwater. Light in the diamond’s ankh knuckle.
Compressed gold light in betrayal’s long decision.
Light in the drug-in plinth.

Light the plinth.
It is not easy to be married to god,
Goes the servant’s whistle, goes the feral pre-form, too,
Of the shepherd. There have been plenty of people
Who have drowned in the desert, pulling down thought
To try to say something. To prophet a shroud.
This man with no ribs, talking down from a plank
Of carpenter’s wood. Sweet grief, exclaimed
As if by Southern women. I might take their voice
(Siren-like) in my throat. And the shit I would say then.
A tidy, violet light charring through.
A passed-on, stupendous root. My son
Equates bigness with price,
Something I probably taught him.

Photographer, I will teach you this
Absorption of shock. Stand back. As monies go,
We are doomed, doomed, politicians
Polluting the tithe waters. I watch my son
Descend the baptismal plank. His grandmother
Crying, rat-like, and I shivering in my seat
Like a rosebud. The six elders
Float above our heads with their swords.
Where can I put my eyes
That the church will not take them? The last of my money
Crouches in my purse like a death.
They will not have my lipstick.
They will not have my carousel.
They will not have my son’s great foray.

They will not have my pregnancy in their hands.
Photographer, I will slat them where they go.
All the preachers ruffling their feathers
Can burn there. I am hot in this rage where I have been
Transformed. Do you see me with these knives
In my pupils, my hands, my heels?
Perhaps they will bury me
In thick cloth. Perhaps two husbands
Will be brought in and murdered.
One for a taste. One for the real thing to ask me
Not to come back from the underground. Do not expect me
To lie like an eggshell, not giving rise to anything.
I will crack the earth like a rice kernel, grow
Needles rolled in olive oil, wrapped in 56 winds.


No third marriage, photographer.

You will not take my light.

You will not take my hand.