If you don’t need money and you
don’t need fame, then you’re free.
- Dana Carvey
When I didn’t have money I told myself
I didn’t need it though I always thought
about it, scheming to possess more; & now
that I have it utterly unearned— arriving
in a windfall— I say I don’t really want it
though even I have to call bullshit.
As for fame well I must admit
I’ve wanted that all along ambition
a latent secret I’ve hidden with ah shucks
and good deeds. Only now at 56 no real
chance for it only desperate shoot-the-
moon that I begin to loosen my grip.
Days are freer now more urgent.
is an empty studio at the top of a bell tower
overlooking train tracks a dive bar
below and some other spots to drift to
but for now it resides in this room breeze
shuttling through the windows whiskey
on the shelf two shot glasses gathering dust
There’s music on Miles or Coltrane or
Big Bill Broonzy and a poem to write
Desire lays down on the day bed composing
while it sleeps whatever suits its fancy.
Her Ringtone was a Wolf
Applebee’s, South Asheville
My mistake to take a seat
at the horseshoe’s grip,
open tables around in a fan.
An hour to kill and a beer
calling to meet the back
of my throat. A wolf howled
nearby and the woman shrugged
and fished out her phone.
Uh oh, a voice whispered.
Don’t let this on in. If she starts talking,
you’re lost. I needed time to think.
Or not to think. I meant to say
drink. The check came just as
a man stinking of booze
dropped down on my left—
Wiley E. Coyote coming to stop
on the ‘X’ marking the spot
on the outcrop rock, broken-off tip
suspended in air
like an anvil, waiting
for the actor to hit his mark
before it starts to drop.
It was a no-brainer: he looked in the mirror
and saw what he could see inside the fog.
And there he was! Or at least he thought
he could be. Why not? 10 years vanished
in quicksilver. He was back! Really, it was easy
as 1-2-3. It was the aftermath that was
difficult. All the usual paparazzi buzzing out-
side when he brought out the trash. Proposals
for marriage. In time, the man couldn’t
remember how he ever forgot himself. He’d
been there all the time, hadn’t he? Maybe not.
Maybe he was a stand-in for someone else.
Or someone else was standing in for him.
Our privilege up here could fill this lake twice over. Swimming out to blue line, standing on the deck as the storm slinks along the ridge. Handmade pizzas on the grill then bocce with drink in hand. Specificity of need gives us away. Sip of martini awakens a sudden clarity of mind, stripping away extraneous thought. But the vision fades and all you are left with is nothing. Nothing.
Sebastian Matthews (sebastianmatthews.com) is the author of the memoir-in-essays Beyond Repair: Living in a Fractured State (Red Hen Press) and a hybrid collection of prose and poetry, Beginner’s Guide to a Head-on Collision (Red Hen Press), an Independent Publisher’s Book Award winner. His other publications include two books of poems, the memoir In My Father’s Footsteps (W.W. Norton & Co.), and the collage novel The Life & Times of American Crow. Matthews is the recipient of a North Carolina Writers Grant and the Bread Loaf Writers Conference’s Bernard de Soto Fellowship in Nonfiction. Along with Stanley Plumly, he edited Search Party: The Collected Poems of William Matthews (Houghton Mifflin), which was a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize. Matthews serves on the board of trustees for the Vermont Studio Center and on the advisory board for Callaloo (the premier journal of literature, art, and culture of the African Diaspora). He is the host of Jazz Hybrid, a music and talk show broadcasted out of Asheville, NC, and livestreamed at wpvmfm.org. He leads workshops for the Great Smokies Writing Program, UNC-A, and offers classes on occasion at the Flat Iron Writers Room.