All posts by jsirkin

MATT HART.February 2016


Photo by Jeff Sirkin


–for Russell Dillon

This morning, a sea of summer-

green in the sky     I’m up early

to go running five miles

and think about flight for an essay

Poetry’s for the Birds

But first, I do last night’s dishes,

eat a Granny Smith apple, and listen again

to a voicemail from my friend

Russell, while stretching my blasted

forty-six year old self, which hurts

from playing dodge ball on the trampoline

with Agnes     Agnes is nine now

and her trouncing me at dodge ball

is an entirely different story (so here I won’t

go into it), but in the voicemail, which is

part of this one, Russell reads

a quiet poem, leaking Freon and sadness, his voice

a rough blanket     The time signature on the call

says 5:30 a.m., which means it was 2:30

in California, the state from where he was

calling, and when my alarm went off

it was two hours after that     the birds already

chirping their muted green sun     I made a cup

of black coffee     The dog ate

a soap bubble     The flowers all alight with bees

softly buzzed     If this seems merely

notational, it is and it is not—“like a daisy in a centrifuge,”

Russell’s soaring poem notes     Sometimes it’s necessary

to record a breaking heart, to locate one’s self

in a faraway haunt     Here in Ohio, I put on my Asics

I run myself crazy     Hüsker Dü in my earbuds

and an eight-minute mile, then the sound of wind

chimes and “Repentless” by Slayer     Obliterated

wind chimes     Obliterated clouds

When I get home, I’ll listen again to Russell’s poem

I’ll write him this poem

“Do I wake or sleep”

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*** ** ***


This manic new trippery. Green apples, red meat.

Powdered sugar. O angels. And now, seduced

again by the panic of being and vanishing elegantly

from the squall of this earth. Someday, but not. Some-

day, but not really. My hope is but soon. And here

among the weeds, or out running the thick canopies of trees,

our lungs do their work, most efficiently, mechanically,

in concatenated glee, glowing from the inside

to the outside to the override, crashed on the rocks

and wildly sort of blinking. The crows in rows spray

rags of sound, and I start from where I’m making out

what life has to offer—drinking a beer and/or

reading a book, comprehending nothing. I am

so inside myself. All the EXITs welded shut,

and the angels up above only lounge around smoking

on the cover of a record I remember from forever.

Glistening for no one. We are falling, so we fall. Joy

persists on our kerosened wings. Rebellious

in our ragged jeans, happy being lost. We flail around

stunned, almost singed, fingers crossed.

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*** ** ***


–for and after Tomaž Šalamun

The beach grass waving brightly at my knees is a sign

The boys on the motorcycle might be

a sign     The brown rabbit and the skunk musk

are not anything, but the oily sheen on my coffee

pretends it’s a movie     I should be watching

what it shows me     Two crows attacking each other, or

two men speed-shucking oysters—one of them with purpose,

the other merely glued-to-it, whatever that means

A giant petunia-maker, whatever that means     I say,

lookout, to the former, not the latter, which is a confusion

Crisis manager     Forefinger     Head cheese slathered

on a French baguette     Sign of the cross on a convoy in the desert

The fighter pilots cockpit, so the fighter pilots jet     And the sound

of a choir breaks open in shards, little blue eggshells,

little tiger-ish roars     And the universe unblossoms

its scurrilous blouse, so to scramble itself with myself and yourself

Purple leaves     Reactivity     A violent blue wind

but the spell is incomplete     Wing-smash of centrifuge

Torso-scribbled lemon juice     What’s written says, Absence, or

Light pours over shadows, like heavy-duty butter cream

And when it’s finished, the blank that’s left implies a vast

and fuming set of new possibilities     O monster so close

you’re inside us already     Hollering at taxis, a little crooked

for our love     Rhinos, weasels, demi-gods, moss

Little girl with bloody nose     Event horizon cluttered

with a billion starry skulls     Winter comes early

when the one who whistles calls

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*** ** ***

from Radiant Action

(Nearly drunk)                            on the eve

of my daughter’s eighth birthday

Bitten by mosquitoes and other sharp things

This uncovered porch with its colorful leaves

And having never written anything memorable


the trills of beasts play

in the air all around me,

my nephews, their wings

my daughter, her instructions

and me wondering,

because I am always


How did I wind up weird

in skull-gray shirt

a blur

When we fall, fall together

I have said, or I have heard,

I am almost choked up to tell you about it

The sun won’t set until it does, and that’s it

Happy birthday to Agnes tomorrow to Agnes

Storms and the storms we remember in fits

Never spend the whole day in anger,

because it hurts

All these verbs of being won’t quit     I rather

like the music, both hardcore and disco

The sounds of summer birds, as they scream

to and fro

Joyfully, thoughtlessly

I pick up a rock,

throw it at the next thing that moves

in the dark

(the great expanse of being

and the cough

of my heart)

Then suddenly a finch

with blazing orange tail feathers

lands on the new bird feeder,

the one that’s in the tree

not ten feet away     But

a squirrel with its bushy

frantic feather-duster

goes ballistic with tick-tick-ticking

disturbing everything     And the bird

flies to pieces     Stupid squirrels

so rackety, even the geraniums

don’t like them     There’s nothing

to do about it, but keep refilling

the bird feeders, repotting the flowers

Nature always has its way     I go back

back to the mysteries, of course—

unworrying the stars

with relaxedness for once

Come out into the light on the deck, you’ll see

Even at night, it’s a miracle

Beach towels scattered everywhere

Socks on the lawn     Baby nuzzling

against my shoulder, and all living things,

instinctually     Did I mention

the baby     There’s a baby

“Maybe the last one in the family”

Melanie made a note     He’s not

our baby     He’s our nephew

and right now very sleepy

The birds and black squirrels

and mosquitoes don’t concern him

And since they don’t concern him,

they don’t concern me     The two of us

don’t regret anything     Alive

and mighty, that’s always and only

what we ever want to be     The baby

likes to be bounced, so I continue

to bounce     The stars

in their blaze make light

of the darkness     A high

high seriousness

Gerard Manley


The blank becomes more and more

difficult     How to fill it     when it’s dark

and my people are out shopping

at the next door neighbor’s for sugar or apples,

flashlights or eggs

I remain, as ever, on hiatus, even working at home—

meaning I remember very little of the white hot

daylight, especially once the fire dies down

into night’s lesser racket     It seems I should be

doing more for the hungry dogs and people

I should be blossoming     The colors of me

should get really clashy and ridiculous—raddichio

and lemons, turpentine and zebras—but all I see

for days is this chair and no beer and no reason

for much of anything


in the afternoons

I rouse myself and exercise, take a shower,

pick up the little girl on time at her school     But

I want to tell you     there are nihilists in the air

There are rock stars on the porch

I am neither one of those things     My dreams

don’t come and go     I don’t get special

packages of deer meat and hashish

delivered to my door     The door

I don’t answer     The phone I don’t answer

I should be doing more for the veterans

and orchids     My wife’s back home,

then my wife’s out to dinner     My daughter’s

again with Grace, playing Hungry Hungry Hippos

or watching Mary Poppins     I’m reading the snow

as it sprawls and looking there for any blemish, any last green

shoot or the orange part of a robin     which is beauty

more than anything, a break in all the whiteness,

something to open up to, or shake loose a transistor

I don’t know what I want     I don’t know what

I expect in the dimming purple light of winter

When Grace leaves

to go home for dinner, Agnes walks into the office

where now I’m writing notes for a lecture on a new

Sublime     I’m using the Blood Brothers’ “Laser Life” video,

supermassive black holes, the Internet’s cosmic, gargantuan


“Thank you,” says Agnes,

and I wonder for what,

but before I can ask her, I realize she’s reading aloud

from a greeting card—absently it seems, like she’s thinking

about something else, some other time when she said

“Thank you” and meant it, or about when somebody said it

to her and it meant that she had done something nice for them,

something little, like her     The greeting card, I notice,

has a lion-headed dandelion on it     Its spiky face

grinning on a stringy green stalk, the backdrop a torrent

of pink and gold diamonds

And when Agnes sees me

looking up from my writing,

she starts to sing a song,

What do you do Punchinella Punchinello,

What do you do Punchinello in the shoe


“When will you be finished,” she asks the next second,

and when I don’t answer right away, she follows up

right away, “Can’t you stop what you’re doing,

and come play a game”     I look at her face

It’s always the same, a billion pink suns

I stand up slowly and abandon my post

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Matt HartMatt Hart
is the author of several books of poems, including Sermons and Lectures Both Blank and Relentless  (Typecast Publishing, 2012), Debacle Debacle (H_NGM_N Books, 2013), and Radiant Action (forthcoming, H_NGM_N Books, 2016). Additionally, his poems, reviews, and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous print and online journals, including The Academy of American Poets online, Big BellCincinnati ReviewColdfrontColumbia Poetry Review, H_NGM_N, Harvard ReviewJam Tarts MagazinejubilatKenyon Review online, Lungfull!, and POETRY Magazine, among others. His awards include a Pushcart Prize, a 2013 individual artist grant from The Shifting Foundation, and fellowships from both the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers. A co-founder and the editor-in-chief of Forklift, Ohio: A Journal of Poetry, Cooking & Light Industrial Safety, he lives in Cincinnati where he teaches at the Art Academy of Cincinnati and plays in the band TRAVEL.


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February 2016.MATT HART