Sebastian Matthews

Love Poem

Sitting outside the Little Theatre this morning, listening
         to a lecture on poetic tone—how a poem is a small
skirmish of voices and inflections that play and resolve,
         fight and stand bristling, all inside the poem, all talking,
like yesterday’s cocktail party, field and river behind
         in muted counterpoint to the babble of our bodies—
my senses bring my attention to the trees, woken by a shudder
         of breeze (blanket tossed over a bed), each tree
dancing and rustling in its own tuning-fork voice, one
         after the other. The way one day in New Hampshire
my brother and I, playing tennis at the end of a long row
         of university courts, got caught in a stampede of rain,
the shower washing over first one court then the next,
         darkening each surface, each empty stage. How
this round of tree song, that passes into then through me,
         seems now to enter the porous auditorium like a spirit,
touching the poet, who I saw dancing the other night
         in a sufic trance (surrounded by men and women
in couples, dancing, alone, in ragged circles), as he reminds
         us in a microphoned voice that tone is not feeling
but also all we know about feeling. Trucks wash by
         in a grimy hallway of rushing wind; the poet cracks
a joke that ripples through the theater, coming back
         in concentric circles of laughter. I imagine I am
ascending a staircase past sunlit rooms and bright panes,
         finally reaching the lost attic of my body, which now,
sitting in this chair, feels like pure Mind, its windows thrown
         open to the poet’s words, and to the trees,
which are only broadcasting the arising desire of the mountains.
         (Now that’s a line I’ll revise.) Soon, he says,
the talk will be over. Soon, I will get up from this chair
         and walk out into the woods. At least in this poem,
at least for you, Beloved, I will keep walking until I’ve lost
         everything held in my head, and only come back
when you call me, a bell, to the next thing.



“Love Poem” first appeared in Forklift, Ohio, Summer 2005.