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“The Counterworld”
and Other Poems

 

Mathew Weitman

Art by Janet Biggs

 

The Counterworld

The monks who keep the void clean
begin by sweeping up the many rivers
& undoing all the trees

The easiest way to catch a hawk
explains the ancient abbot
is to remove the branches sky & fields of mice

Each thing goes
& along with it
goes each thing
 

How long have I lived
as a man resigned
to finding the counterworld

of this abyss
How long have I stood
watching the brooms

& sleeves of monks
for any sleight of hand
How long have I searched

the parallels of nothingness
for coyotes howling for sex
on a frozen lake
 

Somewhere there is a closet
full of blue whales
& the breath of flies

or an under-the-bed
where the trails we rode yesterday
are still wet with horse-piss

Somewhere there is a rug
that cannot hide
beneath itself

 

The Potter’s Field

Not to dig for but to bury
abstractions: a field is

not as empty as its surface
when the crowded earth beneath it

makes each seed dour: the body
happens & goes away
 

Calamus propagates in the eye
socket of a ruined head to bloom

in thickets where gales tangle:
wind-songs made from paupers’ brows
 

Columbines germinate in mouths
& root in ribs to draw water from a lung

stony petals: each pistil rises
from a heap of selves
 

I’ve slept outside & felt
the frames that feed a meadow
 

The heart wants to become soil & nothing
else: a bone dreams of softening to dirt

shoulders to let a lily
& knuckles a blade of grass

 

Short Answer

Or if instead to piece together
the arc of your unbeing
& frame it as a test

rather than a gesture towards an absence
As if to ask which vapors hung around
the farmers market yesterday before becoming clouds

your warmth dissipates from a chair
Forgive me
I would fail this test

the textbook I am using was my father’s
whose marginalia is lost on me
as he has read & referenced a great number

of burned books
I move a pen because I miss you
In a poem without squirrels

my father has scrawled beneath a photograph
of moon phases you are organizing the drugs
Understand I am unfamiliar

with most processes happening around me
am often confused by such things as sand
dollars & petrified wood