22 January 2007 | Vol. 6, No. 4

Charred Face of the Gone

This the progression of prairie fire follows

the plot structure set to motion by an organism

long ago—first earth, then wind, and fire

followed by the resolution of rain we still

wait for as the dust picks up and carries

the lasting soot of a double-wide

on its rolling face. When the water stops

coming the buckets stop meaning anything

other than one component of a system

of archaeological tools once used to wash

off the back porch now settling into its role

as stone. I've got the end of the world

written all over my face. And if you don't

see this read between the lines of revelations,

at the white space that calls out every meaning

that never was but maybe someday will be.

Three in the morning and the howling

at the back door will find you under your covers.

When you stop believing in the sanctity

of the signifier, you will find no more comfort

in the white folds of your comforter.

I meant to talk about fire but cannot

stop thinking about rain, and dulce et decorum est,

which I think has nothing to do with this

except that resolution has hidden within it

something sweet and right, something

I never gave a damn about until some cigarette

butt on the side of the road went from lung

to lost to a leeway of motion with the wind

that drives you mad or drives you out

of house and home, if you're one of those people

who find a difference between the two.

A collection of heat is an opportunity waiting

to happen. In this way all collections

are the same. You can have a gathering

of people or teeth in a mason jar. Once placed

beside the promise of fire, the chatter will turn

to rattle will turn to anger and then engage

hands and mouths and nails before looking

at some project torn asunder and letting go.

About the author:

Clay Matthews's work is published (or will be) in Black Warrior Review, Gulf Coast, LIT, Backwards City Review, CrossConnect, Coconut, H_NGM_N, New Orleans Review, and elsewhere. His chapbook, Muffler, is recently out from H_NGM_N B_ _KS.

For further reading:

See the complete list of work by Clay Matthews at 42opus. Browse the contents of 42opus Vol. 6, No. 4, where "Charred Face of the Gone" ran on January 22, 2007. List other work with these same labels: poetry.

42opus is an online magazine of the literary arts.

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