Scoundrel Time

Three Poems By Wes Matthews

Jimi Hendrix Plays the Star-Spangled Banner For a Crowd of Skeletons

Du Bois said there would be days like this: when we must admit
That we the People have decided to abandon heroics for the sake
Of something more American. We must admit that there are no closets,
In fact, just clauses that riff into this foul dust of feedback, figment of bogfolk
Humming Amazing Grace to their sons’ raft-breasted bodies still drowned
Under the watercourse of human events, fleshlogged blue.

If you listen closely, you’ll hear the dissonant convulsions of a god-fearing Patriot.
You’ll hear a skywaxing bomb, synth of pseudo-sun upon these ramparts.
You’ll hear the brave & the free & the bodies & amnesia.
You’ll hear your dream in smithereens & the implosion of your heart.

I plainly wish to wage this history against itself, but first you must
Remember the art of unforgetting, the most American of perils:
I give you this chasm of frequency that you must sing to, beginning
With the signature of your choosing, ending with a nation of proudly
Distorted bodies below the blush lip of balefire.


Conceit of an Allen Iverson Press Conference

So Allen says not everyone who has seen the bar of a cell knows
of its coldness; nothing clings to bleak metal like a mother. The room’s a false silent.
We talking about attention, not about a tension.
We not talking about a man’s lit filament of nerves as he sits
a high beacon of du-ragged wiretapped wonders, but maybe
we should be.

If a baller named Allen writes psalms, shouldn’t a choir sing as well?
If the same man runs his fingers down a boundary, refers you
to a half-slit across the room, a live body to tremor with a silver frenetic
of hopelessness, will you, like him, shrug your shoulders
and wordlessly confess: this is what an imprisoned thing does—
make prisons out of midair?


African American Sonnet

There’s always been something beautiful about you, too. Insoluble.
I find your name in places of longing: chicken-scratched in the black
of a telephone booth, the musings of my mirror glass, the slim-flanked basilica
of my childhood home. I call your name down this corridor, as if you’re here with me,
& tell you of the endurance of this place—the glass a ghost-glossed film, molecular
dust, sepia-enameled bodies shifting through the rooms, swearing or sweating into
a slight sunlight slothing through the windows. I invite you to my history; to dance
in nostalgia, pigeon-toed under the weight of old echoes & sub-bass.
You may mourn with me, all the things that I am & am not. You may never know what you’re missing until you envy its deadness. I whisper your name, alone,
& like a god by machine, your shadowed figure is here dancing with me timelessly. There is lust between us, a story of burned bridges, backs, brags, & secrets.
I reveal my lonely vice―I am only in love with the palimpsests of things: systems of dirty flirtations, files of tense, false tellings of time and, most especially, yours.





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