Three Poems by Ted Mathys

BOMB 105 Fall 2008
Issue 105  B105  Cover

Rain in Detroit

Aircraft on the tarmac strut

                                                 and suckle their jetways,
                                                 a terminal brood at the iron

nipples of a spidery

is having a systems problem
                                                 or the system is having
                                                 problems with control,       
                                                                                                 suddenly it’s so

                                             late in the tantrum of late
               capitalism and we’re the milk.

                                                                          No longer accomplices
                                                              of our feelings,
                                                                          everyone is becoming

a reactionary artist,
we’re all painting
                                    the proverbial painting of rain
                                    lashing the tarmac

through the window’s
                            exclusionary frame—

                                            Perspective demands the canvas be what it’s not,
                                            a reflection of the depth of the situation.

                                            Abstraction permits it to be what it is, disinterested
                                            damage stretching in ecstatic blue flatness.

                                            Window if you do, window if you don’t.

                                            You say runways make you feel hopeless,
                                            mistaking our painting for its emotional result.

                                            Psychological speculation replaces criticism.
                                            The airport disappears.


Red Tide

Do not endear your eyes
to a cattle egret poised
in the parking lot of the officers’ club
at the beachfront Air Force base
mistaking the hood of a Nissan
Altima for an ox’s spine. An ecstatic
form of the scenic is the obscene. Plovers
running the slow advance
and retreat of surf in ATV tracks
as dune-high satellite
dishes in moonlight glow white as
moons. The scale of naming
has lost all innocence and one of us
is about to die inside
the other. Day workers night fishing
with turkey liver for snook
stuff snapped lines into
a monofilament disposal bin
until a godhead of nylon peers
out over the pier toward: 1) the city
where the cult of the beautiful has been undone
by the cult of the undone; 2) the ocean
where phytoplankton undergo
a pornographic explosion,
twenty million cells
per liter of seawater.
The traces of idiocy
in each of us, when proliferated
to the extreme, defeat
intelligence. Under breakers
odorless neurotoxins
release in the ruptured
algal bloom. If I were an officer
I’d be drunk and outranked,
cataleptic with music and spores
to the lungs, would cough and choke on
a manner of haunting the air
while an egret glides
toward the windshield of a colonel’s
Jeep Grand Cherokee.


Cape Canaveral

If I concede beauty
is neither a pure
mathematical triangle
scribed in the noumenal human
attic of reflection
nor a matter of what matter
is actually before me
in all of its pomp & contrariness,
but some arbitrary relation
between formal aspects
of the launchpad on the horizon
& the bald emotion
of its phenomenally flawed critic,
why should it matter
the most gorgeous jellyfish
I have ever seen
coughed up on a beach,
a pellucid balloon ensnared
in tubular ochre kelp,
turned out upon
closer inspection
to be a Home Depot
shopping bag?

Ted Mathys is the author of the poetry books The Spoils, forthcoming from Coffee House Press in 2009, and Forge, from the same press. He lives in Boston.

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Originally published in

BOMB 105, Fall 2008

Featuring interviews with Claire Fontaine, Nayland Blake and Rachel Harrison, Roman Signer and Armin Senser, John Giorno, Kelly Reichardt and Gus Van Sant, Alan Vega and Matt McAuley and Brain McPeck, Richard Maxwell and John Kelsey, Chris Lipomi and Kathryn Andrews, and Peter Cole.

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Issue 105  B105  Cover