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Sebastian Matthews


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 ( 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 He leads workshops for the Great Smokies Writing Program, UNC-A, and offers classes on occasion at the Flat Iron Writers Room.


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