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Matt Mauch is the author of If You’re Lucky Is a Theory of Mine and Prayer Book, and the chapbook The Brilliance of the Sparrow. He hosts the annual Great Twin Cities Poetry Read, co-hosts (with Paula Cisewski) the Maeve’s Sessions readings, and edits the anthology Poetry City, USA, an annual collection of poetry and prose on poetry.. Mauch teaches in the AFA program at Normandale Community College, and lives in Minneapolis.
We've published Mauch before, in BL #20, and are thrilled to do so again.
Here are two new untitled Mauch poems from a longer series in progress, and check back next week for a guest post by the poet:
For every obvious thing, there’s a three-dimensional chess set
of subtextual things
a songbird come from summering north of here
reminds me of what I’ve lost,
like an estate sale ad
packed with so many implausibly well-kept treasures
it’s no big thing it has a heart,
can fly away when it needs to,
sings as if it’s been sinkhole-swallowing
since the dawn of story time,
has mashed them all up and is blowing them stunningly
out now along the trough of a rolled wet tongue
on this just made noteworthy
day that my chain link
fence becomes something I’ll set
on a forever and ever shelf
next to the window I once took a photograph of lightning through,
and for the bird burdened by things
things with wings are seldom burdened by
is a better spot to rest
than down by the lake
or hidden among the dew-laundered leaves
drying out in the trees, birdier places, they, most flyers
not from here content to fly on, and what beyond flying
farther south this one must augur
or prophesy or presage
or change if it arrived via time
travel, who can say
before the inciting act, pistol that’s not a pistol
not yet hung on the wall,
the point-of-view character assigned to tell our story
still conducting research
hoping to get one of us in bed, pin us against a wall,
bend us over a chair or corner us in a stopped elevator
before the credits roll, everybody
we can think of who got us here
listed alphabetically, or in order of appearance,
names going by so fast
nobody’s able to read them, the garages
all along the alley enough like a canyonned city, Tuesday
enough like rehearsal space,
morning enough like an opening scene,
that the bird making a ruckus
and I are as we all are at all beginnings: anonymous,
in windows yet to be zoomed in on, in our skyscrapers
of wants, needs, and influences,
not filled to capacity, parking garage in the basement,
bar with a view second floor from the top, making up aubades
in the pre-dawn dark, in the post-dawn light,
when somebody says our name, and it sounds like
our name with a decodable message
hidden in it, like a silent t, and the message
could be I love you, or the message could be
I can clean/tap dance/sew
if you can cook/remember birthdays/tell jokes well/mow,
so we turn, hoping what we heard is
exactly what we thought we did.
May you live through 1,000 winters, albeit
living with “live” and “winters” broadly defined
I’m glad that this body and mind, this space and place and
time I live within and among
serves biannually as a place of rest
for a bird with wintertime reservations
in the Yucatan. It’s the old story,
the bird’s and mine, sojourner meets the hunker-down
to share opposite truths on how to make it through the coldest days
trusting the most resonant voices within.
I tell the bird, Crawl when you need to. Protect your underside.
Use your wing like I use my hand, as a shield of last resort.
The bird tells me, Your stomach more so than your brain
is the part of you that remembers best what needs remembering most.
I write down what the bird says on an index card I carry in my pocket
on the opposite side of which
I write that I was born blue, drowning in my mother’s fluids.
The porcupine, opossum, and artichoke
protect the self with what the self provides,
thinking small, then smaller than that, then smaller still,
till they become the issuers of the voices within.
The dormant and hibernating trees, grass, frogs, turtles, and bears
dream that they’re inside the house with all the lights on,
are at the party, mingling.
Pretty soon they are. Pretty soon it’s spring.
Last time, my bird friend brought tequila.
Co-ed Stacia M. Fleegal on Mauch: Matt Mauch is a poet I trust implicitly to take me for a scenic drive through his imagination, which seems always to be rife with associations so unique that they're familiar -- "For every obvious thing, there’s a three-dimensional chess set / of subtextual things." In Mauch's latest poems, the common denominator, the image that ties everything together and grounds the poet's consciousness, is also the thing that flies, propels us through his lines: the bird. In the first poem, the bird is a reminder of the social contract of a relationship and "reminds me of what I've lost"; in the second, the bird is a guide or mentor, returning to and resting within the speaker to impart wisdom -- "Your stomach more so than your brain / is the part of you that remembers best what needs remembering most" -- and tequila. These are poems to reread over and over because it's impossible to be bored or lost in a Mauch poem. Rather, reader and poet, all our brains and feelings and flights of fancy, "are at the party, mingling."
What do you think of Mauch's poems? Let us know in the comments.