Ten Poems
Matthew Gagnon

The Bodies That Speak at the Helm

Stay inside the one enduring thing
cathartic in currency

Every phrase is a chapel
a frayed tanglement

unsealed into its belonging

I could offer a topology of inscriptions
that pierce a habitat

a thrum of small collisions

The fingertips welcome, graze, trespass
the abdomen’s grammar

besiege a written complex
of apprehensions

we speak as one body at the helm

Sudden Decipherment

A smokestack is the value
of knowing

precisely where you are mapped

but this rent heart
is tuned to capsize

in sudden decipherment

The grass is swaying toward
a theology

ticking toward a body bruised
with begetting

unloaded into a system

The chronometer is right
reorient yourself


Against an abridgement of light
you dispatch an outline.
This is a reading room
lettered and jeweled with happiness.
Only a complete silhouette
troubled by the tone of wanting
more than an aisle,
more than a coordinate of survival.
Among the winter scarves
no frozen constitution
keeps time along the metronome,
how we glide
transposing the torque of your ark,
undoing the simple quake
of inhibit, inhabit, burnishment.
This is a reading room
I’ve chiseled back
from an uncertain luminescence
scathed with revival.
The faint purpose of a torso
wire’s relief, charcoals
my graph of sky to a nocturne.

Deep Focus

With mouth agape over a leaden field
you listen for a name, a sun, a moon overhead.

If fire, if breath burns a language without continuum
something illegible drifts into a cry.

A fire briefly blooms. Unspools.

In this roiling dust, breath is sucked
into a throat’s tap until it scars.

Dry leafage. Tinder. Wind thrown.

The near begins as a line of sight
protracting, projecting.

Here is nearness in the migratory pitch and whine
the warble and strain in the throat.

Under a sun-shot shroud, you blur into
a blazing, protein sky.

Set the land straight and good.

Set the millstone down.


Something comes forth

Hymned into being

this flesh is not your permanent

held like a brittle stick

held to you distantly

I become that taut figure
warming to take good care

to be hymned and quartered

on the threshing floor

If leaf, if green
was the air


Everything’s reared to dissuade rain.
Thus water tracks into a house,

such ligatures of pathologic query
burns in a beautiful machine’s refuge,

a scrawling in the human fat,
sheathed in an extremity of ground.

What we want to pronounce
but cannot say: figment, remnant, remember.

Palms are laid down in dim corridors.
At dusk the lights are heavy in their blinding.

Flesh emerges in liquid,
lurks into the rivets holding down

a charter of salt clinched to any asset.
We’ve been accompanied

by an atrium of dust, we’ve lifted
the hammer to strike the letters left on an anvil.

An implacable alphabet now granulated
covers a network of nerves.

It swells to a hive without
withholding our light.

A warm provision of letters
splices your infrastructure.

The Spell (I)

It is the spells they make
an eye gathers

its threaded knowing

torn from a warm
evening’s pledge.

This is a perimeter, an echo flowering.

This is a day’s undoing
its speed and slack

of giving

as a body falls entire
into invisibility.

The Spell (II)

From threshold
to threshold

it is given and pledged.

If the body lacks
any economy of giving

if the body’s fibers unravel.

In a field of witness
does it ripen back to a distillate?

A body is scrolled in laurel

scrolled with forgetting
and departure.

The Spell (III)

Is it the spells they make?

This is a sector
where several bodies meet

at the omission of a margin.

This is a habitat of briar
a flexuous source

in a refuge of inquiry and withdrawal.

A lexicon wavers.
Even adrift

panic is a form of intimacy.

They stroke and polish
the hourglass

near gone, nearly given.

The Spell (IV)

If a spell is unspoken

this will be a body, my body
moved and startled with clarifyings.

These surfaces distort a field, don’t they?

Now that they open
yielding information

touch recognition.

No eve of abandon
or horizon of wavelengths

but the individuated pulse.

A bouquet of mouths
bloom there

in pledge and giving.

Matthew Gagnon currently lives and works in western Massachusetts. His reviews and essays can be found in Jacket, The Literary Review, and The Poker, among others. Some of his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in American Letters & Commentary, Boston Review, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Hambone, and The Nation.