Clay Matthews


Silverback Sexy Back

Sweeping up my hair after my wife cuts it
because I don’t trust many people
with my looks, I look out the basement door
to where the sun does something with the field,
there’s not much I can say about this,
just at this moment I’m glad the neighbors
haven’t yet mowed. My head is a house
and my hair a yard and my body a kingdom,
he says. I’ve never seen a kingdom so all I have
is the legend to draw on. And draw over.
I was sitting at one of the many yuppie
restaurants the other day, drinking a beer
and eating fried onions and watching two kids
in a booth next to mine coloring on the paper
that they give kids to color on in places
like these. I’m not sure if crayons
and alcohol are a good idea, but it’s something
to draw the parents in, so that they can eat
one moment of one meal in peace.
Once my friend and I were kicked out
of a bar for writing obscenities with chalk
on the wall. We were drunk, and I don’t
even know where the chalk came from,
only that Logan wrote in giant words (cursive):
Clay has smelly balls. I shouldn’t even mention
this, it’s embarrassing, for all parties involved.
But we were younger and in love with being
younger. Now I look at my hair going out
the door, and the broom, and a few slivers
of white. You just wake up one day
and it’s happened: you’re older and you know it.
Granted I’m not old in comparison to most,
but in comparison to me I’ve been around
longer than I ever really predicted.
I always thought I’d go out in some hellish
blaze of glory, guns slinging, pills and booze,
face-down in the chest of a beautiful woman,
twenty-five. But I’ve made it past the hump
period, I’ve outgrown my high auto insurance.
As I’m writing this my father is at a school
in Texas learning how to become an insurance
adjustor. There are so many things I’d like
to adjust, even if only slightly. Dad’s had probably
at least twenty careers, and in many ways
I love him for this. Grey-bearded and reckless.
The perpetual mid-life crisis. It’s all crisis,
from the moment we enter to the moment
we eat one last pudding laced with antibiotics
and Valium, and let it all go forever. But there
will be haircuts, many (god willing), between
now and then. And homes and friends and cars
but hopefully nothing too red or too fast.
Or, maybe, and why the hell not. There’s just one life
to live. So I take the writing on the wall,
and read what it says, and claim it, every word.
Yea, I am named, and I am of the flesh.
And like many other animals I am taking on
another shade, slowly transforming into one
colorful excuse for a big brash bike with flames
on the tank, and enough chrome to take it all in.


& Garden

Outside the motors of one mower after another
kept calling me out of whatever intentions I had
to let the grass in the front yard go one being
grass as that wild old getup that never stops growing.
Needless to say I needed a haircut, too. It was life
down the street as one giant Caterpillar and then
another took turns demolishing the space between
point A and point B. I knew a dog once to sleep
in the bucket of a backhoe and never know any
better. I guess there’s nothing much better to know.
And I have not been sleeping well at all it is the heat
of the summer or the echo of an engine over
and over and when I close my eyes I see a thousand
different things I see my friend Jimmy sometimes I see
an oil pan I see these other faces I do not know
and teeth on a tray beside a pile of dirty screws.
I’ve spent the first part of my life trying to avoid
the mechanics of mechanics and this the second
part of my life trying to wear overalls with a straight
face. And relatively I know nothing, except that my life
is as divisible as anything else. Relatively, I think,
I’ve got relatives all over the place who are laughing.
And I keep thinking about lawnmowers but I can’t
figure out why exactly it must have something to do
with metaphor but I’m speaking of things at the literal
level I’m talking about losing fingers and slinging
rocks and mulching or bagging or canning the whole
escapade of self-reliance and hiring some lawn care
specialists to take care of the dirty work. But it is
the dirty work I cherish these days be it for nostalgia
of the years gone by when I was that lawn boy or be it
because that kid in Can’t Buy Me Love was a lawn boy
or be it because I simply get so bored sometimes
that the only thing that keeps me going is having a nice
yard. And just like that movie fashioned after that song
by the Beatles after which I am fashioning myself
sometimes (or maybe not) I like to think you can’t buy
love, or if not love you can’t buy the do-it-yourself
projects even when they are disasters. Because life is most
like life around these disasters, big or small, when working
becomes a motion to cling to while the yard and house
and home slowly start to look like something out of a magazine,
or if not a magazine then at least some dream, another
fiction that begins and ends as one page turns into the next.

past simple home