weekend-readsSix Poems

Matthew Byrne

Signifying Nothing

The metaphor got sick of standing for something else,
of living and dying by the wit of a dimming audience,
of watching itself, as if from outside its body, fussing,
flirting, and cajoling for the advancement of another,
of being mere ephemera that, after serving its purpose,
could be pawned to some other idea in need of a shell.
So the metaphor broke off on its own, turning clouds
back into clouds, and crows back into crows, leaving
danger and evil to speak for themselves, no teleprompter
to peek at, naked as jaybirds no more naked than crows.

So Long, Farewell, auf Wiedersehen

Goodbye to telephone poles, magazines, and newspapers.
To commercials, oil, God, church, priests, and prayer,
adios. To right and wrong, to answers, problem solvers,
repartee, teary-eyed toasts, initiation rites, codes, oaths,
and secret handshakes, sayonara, you lived a full life.
To trading pits, knowing glances, stamps, and checks,
don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Later alligator,
for better or worse, to the classics, to Dickens, Shakespeare,
Middle English, proper English, opera, symphony, poetry,
penmanship, short stories, and novellas. And who could
resist a parting nod to bookshelves, chivalry, nature, CDs,
toll booths and dry humping? With a grave and humble
solemnity I bid adieu also to myself, who, though a tax payer
and abider of most laws, cannot afford a decent cryogenic
preservation chamber, nor a cloning service worth its salt.

You Will Be Mine

Permit me to open doors
for you, turn my coat
into a bridge for you, duel
over you, school you, enroll
you in the life I belong to.
Grant me, when proper time
has passed, the privilege of
poring over you, submitting
samples of you to the lab
for review, noting reactions
to elements joined with you.
Allow me, then, to bookmark
where I left off with you, run
a flag up you, convert into a
condo the apartment of you.
Admit me, should the impulse
get the best of you, to see to
you, look before, during, and
after you. I am who I am
because of you, thanks to you,
hats off to you, ye of little faith,
you of all people, the one.

Plain English

Was a man at a rest stop said that roadkill
speaks plain English. You’re not from around
these parts, I said, not just because
of his funny accent, nor his spacecraft
hovering next to my Buick. His mawkish
penchant for the dramatic, I suppose,
had me on the defensive. Roadkill’s roadkill,
I continued, feeling vaguely naked and mostly
tired. The night highway sank into silence,
then erupted into clamorous light.
Not unlike, I imagined, The Big Bang.
It’s just like you, he said, to speculate
about something wholly beyond your capacity.
How did you know what I was thinking,
I asked. It’s written all over your face, he replied.

All Things Reflective

This business of being examined
by my alternate self from the alternate
plane of my bathroom mirror is reason
enough to boycott all things reflective.
Despite our looking identical he clearly
wallows in my imperfections, such as
the inside corner of my right eye, where
a nominal cluster of veins that I wouldn’t
have otherwise noticed inflames with
the blaze of his scrutiny. So instead
of focusing on still having all my hair
he draws my gaze to the growing bloat
beneath my chin, to the ashen semi-
circles cupping my eyes, to the cracks
crawling toward my temples betraying
effort in my smile. Relax, I tell myself,
you are still so young and, dare I say,
even a bit attractive, at which point
I find him staring at the pale, thin
minus of my anything-but-relaxed lips.

Product Placement

I was a welcome pause, a breather
with a purpose, a tutorial on what
the Joneses may or may not have,
a necessary evil, an unnecessary good,
depends on the viewpoint, the point
in time where all good things must come
to a bend in what the public demands,
which is, nowadays, for me to vanish,
so I weave into content, a slippery state
of constant camouflage, but who will cast
the first stone, I must keep on my toes
to keep you off yours, you see, mutating
and adapting so that you don’t see
but absorb me where you can be steered
without knowing there’s even a wheel,
much less a lead-footed driver.

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