Michelle Matthees

by Michelle Matthees

A picnic table in the rain stained with brandy
fumes in clear evanescence. Dent it with a fingernail.

A last name that when uttered, back in town
is met with an awkward silence, a silence that’s a semi

full of empty shoeboxes. At night inside
the poor farm one can smell green beans.

Will they let him keep his powder-blue suit?
It disappears into the rending house of something useful,

for sky down on earth does nothing for the shovel.
An older woman at the historical society brings me

one photograph, 1950. She says, “I think they are beautiful,”
tapping the team of plow horses, but not the man

who drives them. Tractors can be heard in the photo
jamming up the horizon, and I won’t stick myself here.

I’ll even remove myself from the unframed picture of watching,
the doorway where I was born, the copulation back

in the old country beside the narrow-gauge trains
forcing their way across the forests and back to the sea,

past the white house with high ceilings, a careful garden
with bugs that threaten to eat the taut fruit through.

If I’m not told what to put
in those empty shoeboxes, I will make it up

to match these faces’ pallor. Call it a rest home,
father. Success and failure thrown past us

through the cattle car door to the dogs.


Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 14, Issue 2.

Michelle MattheesMichelle Matthees’s poems can be found in Pank, The Prose Poem Project, The Bellingham Review, Bloomsbury Review, Prove, and elsewhere. She is a current recipient of Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant and has received awards in the past from Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis, The Jerome Foundation, AWP, and other arts organizations. She lives in Duluth, Minnesota.

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