Everything I need to know I learned
In bed, on the top bunk of a vacation house in Maine.
My fragile body can hide in crowds, in grad school
Even my mother thought two years was too young but didn’t forbid
Singing karaoke in a Lafayette bar, she pulled me out
I didn’t believe I could fly when I rolled out, chin-first
My bar-lit face reflected in her granny glasses
I guess I woke up everyone: loads of blood-soaked laundry commotion
It wasn’t too late to find someplace new to sleep
He'll never learn his lesson, my mother said, even with the scar
I'd like to be the first to bite your bottom lip, she said
That’s who he is, everything going on and him not caring
But someone already bit right through.
A pig like that is too good to eat all at once.
Tom Finnegan, Repo Man(1984)
So what, my father-in-law
picks up trash on strolls his doctor
told him to take. So what I can’t
force myself to read the letter
my doctor sent me. He fired
me. Or rather, he’s retiring
rather than be responsible for
my heath anymore. His partner, too.
I’ll need to find someone new. Someone
younger, like my wife and all of
her friends who have never known
an older doctor, not since they were
adults. I don’t want to accept it;
It’s not that I won’t take advice
from someone younger than me,
but where they are coming from,
and me, on the other side of that
Age divide. I want to take my walks
and pick up trash on the roadside
like my father-in-law. It’s cool
to dress like a hobo, to be old
before your time, until the moment
you really are old, which is uncool
in the extreme. Every morning with
my coffee, I swallow back my pill
like a stiff drink. It hangs on
the porch of my throat and dissolves
As I walk the trail. You see some things if you
watch with intention. A rider
surfs the trail on a motorized unicycle,
comic except for the future terror,
mad max mask, goggles and helmet
crowned with soft plastic spikes. There’s a sign
For my father-in-law, some neighbors
dropped in from another life who see
him like a cigar store Indian
but rustic, a Depression-era reminder,
marked his territory for him, this corner
cleaned by a relic we value
exactly. I swallow 25 mg of Losartan
with water even though I feel normal
On the outside. That’s normal, my doc assured me,
no one can tell. That’s why they trust machines
to measure blood pressure, because
it hides. Just a sped-up version of normal.
just a revved-up motor, racing forward
feeling dread, walking toward a future
catastrophe, accepting it. That’s how it feels.
A Cloud is a Bell Until it is Wrung
Spread out across the evening
and invite curious clouds,
who query the ragged moon.
Force him to hide behind a sprig
of holly, grown fatter with sap
than a finger. Wring free
the moisture and let it collect
on our skin in streaks that dimple
and flex, tension that collects
to break in cloudburst. Bring us to the edge,
loose the brunt of potential.
Keep nothing in reserve; please
don’t tease us with what you might
do when we wake up tomorrow.
Help us remember how we lived
For one night, till the next.
Matthew Dube's poems have appeared in Interstice, Slant, Rattle, and elsewhere. He teaches creative writing and American lit at a small mid-Missouri university, and reads submissions for the online lit mag, Craft.