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Ten Poems
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’s reviews and essays can be found in Jacket, The Literary Review, and The Poker, among others. Poems have appeared in Boston Review, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, and The Nation.