I SAW A BRIGHT TREE “Heyyyyy…what”—Low “…it’s actually a relief to send out messages and have all the time in the world, to say I tried to convince them but that’s as far as it went…” —Roberto Bolaño I saw a bright tree on a walk Made me glad Its leaves glowing garishly Fluorescent orange and soaring And all astride A gray expanse Flocked with crows Unfolding maps Cranium-asteroid-viburnum of dogs And running my mouth Over slick picket fences Now, now, and now Through the shiftier tenses I remember to remember That you are with me in love And the tree is of love As the tree is mostly dying And we are mostly dying Neck-deep in the depths of ourselves Which are icy but melting Orange construction prayers of cones Damages and masters The great constellations To make us breathe and think and look O little birdling steam engine Of weird concentric circles Impossible contradictions What I like about you Is when I tune my ears to heaven The interstellar real estate The voices through the static The molten traffic’s broken wings And this wild extended image Of a nuclear amazement A tree so resplendent I almost couldn’t look Take me in your arms Fold me into your call And I will respond as I always respond Longingly into the mysteries DAYBOOK “A giant of the whole day is awakeness.” —Robert Duncan “It’s good to have a zero to come home to, a lobster in the mailbox, a hero who arrives at the climax of your private film.”—Jules Gibbs First and foremost, wrote Jules Gibbs a letter Now I am a sun sitter A giant of awakeness since 3:45 Wrote comments on a couple Of really impossible student poems Then made a coffee to forget the whole sky Why imagine I would lie? Flighty or diaristic or both, you decide Is this, too, a poem? I throw my punches live This mid-morning of a Wednesday Pandemic, 2020 Wave one Probably one of many Definitely one among In the writing and re-writing Jay sends a text “Anything from Riley?” I text back an answer Drying my hair in the golden-green pomposity And off to the south, a bank Of clouds floats A little ominous really Not owls stuffed with images Which themselves are stuffed with images Millie text edits Jay texts, “Wow!” I scroll through the feeds As I stroll among the trees I don’t even care About the motherfucking wolf Last blood moon of the year this week A cat with a bell around its neck’s on the loose Walking my driveway Like it’s one of my familiars Jay texts “Ha!” to speed it all up I text weirdly, but I don’t remember what Is it possible the correspondence is already complete? I’ve never seen that familiar cat before A fighter jet blooms/All my guts out HAINT POEM “When I asked you for a sign/The fireplace doors shattered.” —Noelle Kocot I never lick the wicker chairs I never catalyze the witch I don’t know what’s worse the owl or the wolf, or the dust dipped in chocolate I think somebody out there must taste like this dream I had about being an even more terrible person than a poet There was a limousine in it I remember that and also some people whose names I don’t wanna name because they’re only ghosts to me now and I’m afraid of ghosts—not because of what they are, but because of who they were I sing myself into a stupor to forget I sing myself in a fake beard and hat No one will notice that I’ve slipped into stanzas I rarely do that and even when I do it reads the same way which is large with stars and nodding-off curs my nerves to your veins your veins to my nerves And the front door bleeds a few drops on my keys Then I open my mouth and it all spills out She’ll be comin’ round the mountain when she comes a sky of birds black and red and weird and obscene Then someone whispers “Boo” in my ear not beside me I begin again warmly to choke on the dream FALLING FINE “Hark, dumbass, the error is not to fall but to fall from no height. Don't fall off a curb, fall off a cliff.”—Dean Young The microphonic hummingbird knows me I am all And a bright orange tree on a walk Made me glad The rockets maneuvering and outmaneuvering the awnings The thermometers The Shadracks When I say I am all What I mean is I am particles The bird with its oversized heart mostly buzzes But today in the chatter, it’s been preamps and compressors And to think it all started in the rain on a day When we were young and in love And I was with you in the feeling And you were galvanizing wheat Who were we then really And who now takes their place Analog stars and digital clouds I’m the hair on your head going gray as much as anything And you’re the eggs on a biscuit Or the tiny skull of Hamlet Not at all afflicted As we press on through the presents Sometimes singing grrr to fill the silence in a leaf More to fall apart than draw the blood of what dreams We arrive on our knees In the mailbox of Heaven And shove our fat faces in a flower TRANSLATION, OBLITERATION, CORRESPONDENCE, & FRIENDSHIP “can’t picture our home without you” —The Wrens It isn’t as easy as it sounds Talking to dead people And living people simultaneously While attempting to be more Than a cell phone tower Or a telescope forever Scanning the classroom For life on other planets Scanning the sidewalk For hundreds or even fifties Scanning the newsfeeds But always feeling hungry Are you out there? Do you read me? I’ve been talking All semester About carrying Handfuls of sand, Which we’re once A gorgeous castle, Across a turbulent river To the far other side And trying to rebuild there But only making an electron face Or jackrabbit omelet At least that’s the way It seems at first, but The more you look at it The more distorted it becomes Owls and wolves Punk as fuck Stuffed with mailboxes There’s even an event horizon And the event is That you’ve discovered The things on your mind That you had no idea Were on your mind Probably sex and death If the Surrealists were right But they got that from Freud And I got it on good authority By opening the mailboxes And reading the letters Which were sent through the sand From the other side of the river The original side, but let’s don’t Get bogged down in originality My advice is not to worry about it The Venus flytrap you are And a shit-ton of books Are all you really need Originality takes care of itself Memorize more quotes Which technically should be “quotations” But quotations didn’t sound as good Right there, and what do I care About technicality? Enough to apply it To apply technique And then acknowledge That it’s a tiny part Of the much larger grass stain Rolling around on our backs Beneath the sun Anyway, as I was saying Before I interrupted myself With originality I was reading a letter That was delivered through the sand From the far side of the river, Which seems even further away now Like it never even existed And what the letter said And remember it was many letters Was, and I’m paraphrasing, Dear Stranger I noticed that you disassembled my castle And carried it by handfuls To the other-other side And while what you’ve built there From the remnants is more modest And a-shambles, there is nevertheless A resemblance, a correspondence between us That I almost recognize It seems you’ve lost the moat And gained a carport It seems you’ve mismanaged the turrets But now you have rivulets of streaming TV I rather like the azaleas you’ve planted Out front, and the geraniums in their pots All I ever had was catapults and guards Maybe you’ll allow me to visit someday And warm your new place With the fog of what was Sincerely Sincerely Sincerely Only Echoed As you can imagine Reading these letters As one letter I was stunned Sitting with my jackfruit And my over-easy eggs I scanned the other shore then And somebody waved So I waved back And promised to write The hummingbirds and rabbits Were finding their way And I was finding mine In a haze Back to you
THE FAMILIARS Preface
I started writing The Familiars (though I didn’t know that’s what they were) back in January of 2020. I wrote a poem (now lost and/or lost to memory) of some three pages. It was handwritten in black ink on loose sheets of yellow legal paper, which isn’t usually my way of doing things. For years I’ve typed poems on an old Remington Noiseless #7, but I was out of town, so not in my usual space. Thus, the necessity of writing on whatever I had. The poem had a title and an epigraph—I believe from Sonic Youth, but again I can’t remember and can’t find the notebook. It had something to do with walking around in the rain in Portland with my friend Alejandro de Acosta. Anyway, the day after I wrote the poem, I sat down and read through it and then decided to re-write it right then and there from memory. The new “draft” contained aspects (words, phrases, lines) of the original poem, but also new material. Obviously, also lots of what was in the first draft fell out into the void. I liked the process and decided I would keep at it for the whole year. Each day I read through the version of the poem from the day before and then re-wrote it from memory. As a result, all the poems resemble each other—they are familiar (and correspond) with each other—but they are also my familiars, both recognizable and strange simultaneously. Every poem is an echo, every poem is a rumor. As a group, the poems enact a long game of Telephone where each new poem is an old poem—a reverberation, a reflection, a doppleganger, a translation—that only barely existed to begin with. But in the repetition of the process something perforated begins to emerge—a voice which is many voices, an amplifier, a speaker connecting and disconnecting in the present via the past for the future.
—Matt Hart, March 2022
About the Author:
Matt Hart is the author of nine books of poems, including most recently Everything Breaking/for Good and The Obliterations. Additionally, his poems, reviews, and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous print and online journals, including Big Bell, Columbia Poetry Review, Harvard Review, jubilat, Kenyon Review, Lungfull!, Mississippi Review, POETRY, and Waxwing, among others. His awards include a Pushcart Prize, a grant from The Shifting Foundation, and fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers. He was a co-founder and the editor-in-chief of Forklift, Ohio: A Journal of Poetry, Cooking & Light Industrial Safety from 1993-2019. Currently, he lives in Cincinnati where he teaches at the Art Academy of Cincinnati and plays in the band NEVERNEW: www.nevernew.net.
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