poem index

The National Interest

Ted Mathys
We are interested in long criminal histories
because we've never bedded down in a cellblock.
With the sibilance of wind through the swaying
spires of skyscrapers as my witness. When I say 
cover your grenades I mean it's going to rain I mean
there is mischief in every filibuster of sun.

We are interested in rigorously arranging 
emotions by color as we've never been fully
divested of blues. With drinking till my fingernails
hurt as my witness, with hurt as my witness.
When I say be demanding I mean be fully
individual while dissolving in the crowd.

We are interested in characters who murder
because we've never committed it or to it.
With an origami frog in a vellum crown spinning
on a fishing line from the ceiling as my witness.
When I say please kneel with me I mean between
every shadow and sad lack falls a word.

We are interested in ceaselessly setting floor joists
because we've never pulled a pole barn spike
from a foot. With bowing to soap your ankles
in the shower as my witness, lather as my witness.
When I say did you see the freckle in her iris I mean
the poem must reclaim the nature of surveillance.

We are interested in possessing others who possess
that which we possess but fear losing in the future.
With a fork as my witness. A dollop of ketchup,
hash brown, motion, with teeth as my witness.
When I say you I don't mean me I don't mean
an exact you I mean a composite you I mean God.

We are interested in God because we can't 
possess God, because we can't possess you. 
With a scrum of meatheads in IZOD ogling iPods
as my witness, technological progress as my witness.
When I say no such thing as progress in art I mean
"These fragments I have shored against my ruins"

We are interested in ambivalence as ribcages
resist being down when down, up when up.
With the swell of the argument and the moment
before forgiveness as my witness. When I say power
is exclusion I mean a box of rocks we don't
desire to deduce I mean knowing is never enough. 

From The Spoils by Ted Mathys. Copyright © 2009 by Ted Mathys. Used by permission of Coffee House Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Ted Mathys

by this poet

poem
I am in the 
main on the 

mend I am in 
Maine on the 

wagon on 
Katahdin in 

an animal
skin I am a 

pencilmaker 
breaking 

a stolen mirror 
metaphor over 

the peak to 
make Maine 

lakes glint in 
sun I broke 

like a main 
clause over 

the forest of the 
page and paused 

to drink from a
literal canteen