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Matthew Flamm

Studies in the Dark

Lately Wislawa Szymborksa has been

meeting me in secret, after the streets

have withdrawn and this room has been dark

long enough to feel deserted.

The only poet I know, she appears

as bright scratches on solid blackness.

My wife sleeps, and the dog prepares

to bark before the silence fools him.

For an hour S tells me

more than I can understand.

Of history buried or overgrown,

the jokes it plays on the unsuspecting.

Incidentally she reminds me

of when I only knew poets,

and we spent hours in broad daylight

kibitzing and commiserating.

Later I lived as if I’d never read

a poem outside of a classroom

(while the poets found jobs

in classrooms, and moved away).

A forgivable lie, but pointless, she says.

You’ve seen what the world values.

From now on the only reason to hide

would be to further your studies in the dark.

She does not commiserate.

But her scratches of light offer direction

even when partly understood,

like constellations seen through a forest.


Hudson Yards

“. . . a gilded playground for the one percent . . . ”

New York magazine

From miles away that unfinished tower

with the lopsided arrowhead top—

a starchitect’s project in that neighborhood

nobody asked for—reaches into our streets

to change a view that hasn’t changed

in the hundred years I’ve lived here

this walk home through the spring dusk

normally a chance to survey our prospects

Broadway’s curves along the old Lenape trail

the graceful procession of limestone and brick

this capital of an aging bourgeoisie

that has paid dearly to look the same

one century after another

elaborate stage set hinting of Paris

mirage reconstituting itself from

graying cloud and glowing twilight

a box we tuck ourselves into

and yet as we wander south

after another Friday dinner

the evening softens the arrowhead

construction lights hang like pearls

while the broad shaft blocking the horizon

insulting the eye

jolts our streets from their slumber

the long vista no longer a slide

in a hand-me-down stereopticon

if you stumble upon it right—

at this hour, in this light


Young Couple

A daughter and a boyfriend on a couch.

Grown up yet looking like students.

Laptop on each lap,

clutter of notes and documents.

One employed, the other about to be.

But not yet in the same city.

Still depending on the parents’ home

for a weekend together.

Still watched by parents, including

a father at a dinner table,

who notices: dead silence. For a while.

And worries: a spat? Or something worse?

Probably even they wouldn’t know,

needing to see how far the switchbacks

of attraction climb before

they can settle where they are.

Then the boyfriend talks; the daughter laughs.

Hunched over coffee and the paper,

the nosy dad misread a pause.

But not the weight their steps carry.

Their future could be starting now,

despite how little there is to see.

Just a couch in a living room,

their shoes in a jumble on the floor.


Matthew Flamm is a graduate of Columbia's MFA program and a longtime journalist in New York. He has been an entertainment reporter at the New York Post and a media, technology and transportation reporter at Crain's New York Business. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry East, Hole in the Head Review Vol. 2 No. 2, and are forthcoming in Mudfish.


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