“…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


                                                         “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


                                                                  “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


                                                       “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


                                                    “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


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 ReviewjubilatKenyon ReviewLungfull!Mississippi ReviewPOETRY, 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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