Three Poems by Matthea Harvey

BOMB 95 Spring 2006
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The Future of Terror / 7

From the gable window, we shot
at what was left: gargoyles and garden gnomes.
I accidentally shot the generator
which would have been hard to gloss over
in a report except we weren’t writing reports
anymore. We ate our gruel and watched
the hail crush the hay we’d hoped to harvest.
I found a handkerchief drying on a hook
and without a hint of irony, pocketed it.
Here was my hypothesis: we were inextricably
fucked. We’d killed all the inventors and all
the jesters just when we most needed humor
and invention. The lake breeze was lugubrious
at best, couldn’t lift the leaves. As the day
lengthened, we knew we’d reached the lattermost
moment. The airlift wasn’t on its way. Make-believe
was all I had left but I couldn’t help but see
there was no “we”—you were a mannequin
and I’d been flying solo. I thought about how birds
can turn around mid-air. About how
the nudibranch has no notion it might need
a shell. Swell. I ate the last napoleon—
it said Onward! on the packaging. There was one
shot left in my rifle. So this is how you live
in the present. I polish my plimsolls.
I wrap myself in a quilt. I re-ink
my note (for nobody) and I’m ready.

 

Terror of the Future / 7

Sweetheart, there’s no one on the street.
I attached the speakers to the steeple
but even on its loudest setting, the stereo
gets no reaction. If you ask me, (ask me,
please) the split screen of the brain
needs a sounding board, doesn’t like the only
signals in the skyway to be its own synapses,
doesn’t want to go solo in the sandbox.
You’re. Not. Breathing. Let’s see: memories.
I remember the rocking chair that was always
in the repair shop for liking to rock backward
but not forward. I remember the price
of a pressurized suit. I remember the red ribbon
in your hair. I remember when pandemonium
was possible. O there’s no way to nectarize this moment—
it’s entirely without sweeteness. In just a minute
it’ll be match point and of course the world wins.
It’s not a matter of life-and-death, it’s life or
death. Here in the grove, after jar after jar
of grain alchohol, the sun looks like a halo,
then a noose. Give me a helping hand,
historian. Help me with that “or.”

 

The Golden Age of Figurehead

First we sloughed off the sailors—when a storm hit we’d lean into it and watch as they slipped into the water. One by one we washed our decks clean, pried their rough fingers from our rudders. The anchors, our old enemies, glint at the bottom of the ocean amongst the sea anemones while the thick ropes that once tethered us twist and turn in the currents like snakes charmed out of their basket by the song of the sea. Finally we can go where we want—swooping around archipelagos in packs, zigzagging along the paths the sun and moon make, skimming the Pacific solo. Yes our masts are crusted with salt, our rigging grows ragged, our bright paint—reds and golds and greens—has faded so that we’re like pencil sketches of what we once were. We don’t mind the barnacles that muffle our mouths: We have no common language. The ship with a bird’s head wants to squawk with the gulls that forage from its sails, would follow them into the water when they dive for fish if only it could. Her ladyship, who trails sheets of seaweed like floaty green skirts, is lovesick for the sailor who used to stain her lips with wine before each voyage. But there is always the rain. When it falls hard enough we can’t tell which way is up, which way is down. Then we’re like the earth before the equator was invented, like the giant tenor who unbuckles his belt and lets out his one truest note.

—Matthea Harvey is the author of two books of poetry, Pity the Bathtub Its Forced Embrace of the Human Form and Sad Little Breathing Machine. She teaches at Sarah Lawrence and lives in Brooklyn.

Originally published in

BOMB 95, Spring 2006

Interviews Dana Schutz, Harrell Fletcher, Tacita Dean and Jeffrey Eugenides, Frederic Tuten and Bernard Henri-Lévy, Lynne Tillman and Paula Fox, Judd Ne’eman and Janet Burstein, Charles Atlas, and Marsha Norman and Adam Rapp.

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