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Book: The Gospel According to Matthew Part II

Gospel Part IIThe journey continues as Matthew recounts night time meanderings, fantasies of being a cat, reflections on the pitfalls of adolescence, and the perennial struggle to uncover more of who he really is at heart.

City Walk

I like to walk the city
before dawn

I like it when I have its full attention
and I can feel it watching me
like an eye

I like how the darkness calms things

How the houses seem more relaxed
when they don’t have to tell you
what color they are

I like it when the shrubs and trees
stand there like figures draped in cloaks

I like it how the street lamps stand there nervously
knowing they are surrounded

I like the cats
who scurry out from underneath the cars
like they’ve just committed crimes

I like it when the morning
is just a thin white row of teeth
upon the jawbone hills

I like it how the city roars
like a distant surf

I like to think of all the bodies
around me sleeping

All the dreams floating about
in people’s heads

I like to think of dreams

I like to think that maybe they’ve been brought by fairies

who deposit them in our ears
through colored-plastic straws

That they’ve come a long way
from a distant land
some hidden kingdom
like Tibet

I like to think that dreams
are like the petals on a flower opening
except they’re always changing color
like prisms twirling in the light

And that while they twirl
they make an eerie song
like chimes

I like it how the lights come on
one by one

And the people start their coffeemakers
and have no recollection
of what just happened to them

And I return back to my home
as the whole world turns the dial up on itself
and fills with sound and light

And I remain silent
about everything it was I saw

Book: The Gospel According to Matthew Part I

Gospel According to Matthew Cover IIA wide ranging collection of both soft spoken and hard hitting poems full of ecstatic insights, societal skewerings, and romantic revelations as Matthew seeks meaning and mischief across the Pacific Northwest. Written directly after his recovery from chronic pain, The Gospel is the book Matthew wrote when he found himself in love and back on mountaintops.

Creative Writing 101

I forget I know anything about writing poetry

I forget I have written 500 poems

I forget there is a box beneath my bed
with twenty dusty journals in it

I forget the binders in my desk
where I have stockpiled poems
like ICBM’s

I forget my transcript has a line on it which reads
“Creative Writing”

I forget I know the definitions of terms like
heroic couplet and nonrestrictive clause

I forget there is an open mic

I forget there is a darkened room
where I have read 50 times

I forget that there are 50 people in it
with the candlelight of expectation in their eyes

I forget the compliments I have received
I forget that I would like to receive more

I forget the title of the book I’m writing in my head

I forget the vision of seeing it on some Barnes and Noble shelf

I pour my breaths into a glass with ice in it
and sip them slowly like vermouth

I study the whiteness of the walls
until the minutes halt their drip

I ask the poem if it thinks it knows
who I am

and it replies

I am not a birth certificate
nor the name written in the blank

I am not a bottle of formaldehyde
in which to place the heart

I am not the scalpel
nor the surgeon’s well-trained hands

I am not a magistrate
nor the stone of his decrees

I am the pavilion through which the breeze
might freely blow

I am the hardwood floor
on which the wedding parties dance

I am the mesh through which the sun
can peek its skull

I am the lattice up which the climbing vine ascends

I am the dissipation of the cloud
into tiny drops of rain

I write down the last shape
I think it takes

Put out an empty glass
wait to see what it collects

Book: Men Who Walk with Canes

MEN WHO WALK WITH CANES COVER IIRecounting his three year journey with chronic pelvic pain which at its worst left him virtually unable to walk, Men Who Walk with Canes explores Matthew’s struggle with limitation and loss when he was forced to resign his job managing a busy food bank in Seattle and move back in with his parents outside Bellingham for eight months to focus on his recovery. A soul searching and gut wrenching collection of poems, MWWC is full of hard fought insights acquired on a long, bruising path towards healing.

Back Home, Week Five

Three times now
I have seen the Trickster

The latest in broad daylight
ears propped
padding down my lane

Now I am sure it must be a sign

What he wants
I don’t know
or maybe I do

Five months
unable to walk right
and now this wheelchair
beside my bed

Childhood room where I lay
refugee camp of all my things

Dad snoring in the room above
Mom tossing

Sleep doesn’t seem to help
a thousand prayers neither

Dreams still come
but these days
I play catch and release

Doctors think I’m nuts
parents, too

And what good am I to friends
except a burden to their minds?

Everything gets stripped
and beneath a single question

Who am I?

Without my scribbling hands
without my chasing legs

Just a mind
rising in the night
full of words

Book: Cannonball Island

Cannonball Island Cover IIWritten while working a crappy temp job in the bowels of one of Seattle’s industrial suburbs, Cannonball Island recounts Matthew’s search for peace of mind amidst streetscapes and treescapes. With a punchy style (think Indian flute through a jazz mute) CI explores the sense of alienation present in both the wilderness and the metropolis and hints at a possible reconciliation between the two.

Renton

My office moved down to Renton this weekend
Upon the fruited industrial plain
Where in enormous steel and concrete plantations
They raise tractor-trailer trucks, sales reports
and aeroplanes

They took away my window
So now my only view is through this one ceiling panel
That has yet to be installed
And if you get right beneath it you can see
Way up through the cavernous murk
To the warehouse roof

And somewhere beyond that
The pure blue sky

The wetlands outside must have looked threatening
So they wrapped them up in a chain-link fence
And now the blackberries and wild rose
Reach through the links
Like little hands

And at 4:30 each afternoon
A massive flock of crows descends
To shit on all our cars

But the neon signs are an eternal bloom
Of box stores and carry-out joints

And so the people are happy

For they do not recollect
That this was once a mighty forest

And that now they trod upon
Unmarked graves

Poem: Sunset on Cherry Point

Written the summer of 2011, this poem is my best attempt to weigh in on the proposed coal export facility in Whatcom County.

Sunset on Cherry Point

The steam rising from the refineries
catches the evening light
spinning it to gold

For once
the profit of our industry
offered up for all to enjoy

Behind me a train hurdles past
its call like the scream
of some unseen creature in the night

There’s nowhere in this city you can go
where its decibels
will not scratch upon your ears

Talk in the papers about coal

Talk about jobs
that will let unemployed husbands
sign the dotted lines on homes

Talk of black dust
covering the shoreline rocks and trees
and the image of a city
whose emblem upon its letters to the world
is evergreen

Behind me
teenagers walk past
flirting hard
talking about sex and love

To them the coal-fire plants of China
seem infinitely far away

Before me
a single Caspian Tern
flies by above the bay
returning to its roost at the old mill
that still haunts the downtown
like a crumbling castle

And I am reminded
when our factories finally return to ruins
they will become nests again