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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, March 7, 2018.
About this Poem 

“‘Robber Sentenced to Reflection’ is in the voice of a thief in an alternate world whose punishment is to make mirrors for twelve years. In it, I combined invented and actual slang from A Dictionary of the Underworld by Eric Partridge.”
—Matthea Harvey

Robber Sentenced to Reflection

We bank sneaks do it for the back-
jumping buzz and for the poetry
of course, iamb after iamb of ka-
klink in our birdcage coffers.
The beard-jammer (that shitty
shirtrabbit) dropped from the eaves
after a whole lot of listening and squashed
my swagger in seconds. So here I am
on yonder Ponder Island, forced to
forgo the fizz powder that used to give me
the good go-ahead, count my every blink
and contemplate. It’s always claws
for breakfast, then around eye-flicker
five thousand he comes in to cat-cuff
me, to drone on about the bone orchard
or the Burlap Sisters (buzz-nappers all three)
who never went free. They didn’t do
dialogue. They were islands of their own.
Each midnight (thrice daily) I scan
the skies for wormholes, which I know
is flimsy whimsy, as if I’ll swoon through
space into a dimension where
there are cackle-tubs full of jokes
and tenth chances. Still, I keep
the old big-eye open. When I can
I prowl the caper-cove hooting help!
My sentence: twelve years of mirror
manufacture. Not even one lousy weak-
ankled gerund. There’s no magic in mirrors
but in verbs, hey-brim- ho yes. I narrate
my movements to myself with as many
as possible—I grind, polish, whistle,
wish, but I worry I’m losing the lingo.
I never look at my show-me in the glass—
it fazzles me. Instead I count what I’ve sent
down the wormholes in the past:
one year of daily weather diagrams
and owl-falls, an exquisite equation for
unlocking a safe. I think there are
other worlds out there and perhaps
in a quicksquint I’ll catch a glimpse of
my double (Little-Go- Cheat or Lizzy-Loll-
Tongue I call her). Worst: We’re handcuff-
Married. Best: Thanks to me her nimbles
unlatch a door and cull-money silvers
into her lap. She imagines my sky.
Sends me hers.

Copyright © 2018 by Matthea Harvey. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 7, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Matthea Harvey. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 7, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Matthea Harvey

Matthea Harvey

Born in Germany in 1973, Matthea Harvey spent the first eight years of her life in Marnhull, England, before moving with her family to Milwaukee.

by this poet


Rain fell in a post-romantic way.
Heads in the planets, toes tucked

under carpets, that’s how we got our bodies
through. The translator made the sign

for twenty horses backing away from
a lump of sugar. Yes, you.

When I said did you want me
I meant me in the general sense.

For the time being
call me Home.

All the ingénues do.

Units are the engines
I understand best.

One betrayal, two.
Merrily, merrily, merrily.

Define hope.	 Machine.
Define machine.  Nope.

Like thoughts,
the geniuses race through.

If you're lucky

after a number of
revolutions, you'll

feel something catch

The Backyard Mermaid slumps across the birdbath, tired of fighting birds for seeds and lard. She hates those fluffed-up feathery fish imitations, but her hatred of the cat goes fathoms deeper. That beast is always twining about her tail, looking to take a little nip of what it considers a giant fish