07 December 2021

Three Poems by Matthew Dube

Concrete Fantasy
“Under the paving stones, the beach.”
Situationist slogan
They’ve been busy for two weeks,
the construction crew working on the street
to reveal the sewer lines below. They’ve done

a flawless job removing the rubble
their piledrivers created so you need to imagine
the mess they made. They’ve set orange cones
around the edges of these plots they’ve opened.

Ease around them slowly, pausing, always, to respect
oncoming traffic, or idle beside them like they’re gardens
and you a flower-sniffer, maybe, or you’re someone

choosing a piece of sheet cake. Not a checkerboard
but the squares Michael Jackson’s dance shoe lit up
when he danced across them. Or graves kept ready for
those whose deaths fill actuarial tables. They require

us to drive past them automatically, these invitations
to dream what might change by them being here
and us, but I turned the wheel. As wrecks go,

this one is barely enough to meet the deductible.
As a departure from the everyday, it’s priceless. 
Wolf at the Door

America, you and I have been testing
Ourselves, watching horror movies
And tv shows, to see if they

Still scare us, after everything
We've been through, serial killers,
Masked and unmasked

Menacing office buildings where
We looked for jobs, laid off
By the pandemic or else

Something worse, a disease
That turns you into a creature
That hungers for blood, and my father-in-law

Gets lost driving to the pharmacy
And finds himself in a coven of witches
Who want to monitor his heart rate.

And what about you, America? When
I drove by your apartment, I’ll admit
I had questions, but what I saw

Made me think that you need
Answers even more than me, the help
That the zombies were hoping

For when they said, Send more cops
And even stoned and seventeen I knew
They meant Brains. I’ll admit some mistakes

But when I showed you my new place and
You said it looks haunted, I heard it lacks
content and I had to disagree. I’m scared

how I’ll hold up if this isn’t it, not even a preview.

Table Manners

Young children and their curious eyes. I’ve seen them,
caged in high chairs or else sitting forward on their knees,
feet tucked under. They play with their food,
chicken nuggets can be dinosaurs, fire trucks, or building
blocks; the bowl of macaroni-cheese centered
on the plate, its golden corona a volcano waiting to be pierced
by the spoon stabbed bluntly from above.
These kids don’t recognize hunger
is a desire that can be sated. They regard food
warily, a distraction from pain, or boredom,
or the sense that nothing could possibly help.

Their eyes as dull as the oversized spoons they hold,
that pull their mouths into flat grins. They forget
about the food in their mouths or on the plate
to recline regally and observe their domain, chewing
when they remember. Jaws ruminate, the swallow
abrupt as a tantrum. Filled, their eyes turn to clouded glass,
guarded portals to a soul sovereign and absolute
until a server passes with a sizzling steelhead or a crash
of plates captures their interest. Once their gaze finds a focus,
they cannot be restrained; they raise their arms
to be lifted free; they’ll squall till we do it. They’re learning
how we are in the world, that it’s up to you to feed
yourself and to push back from the table when you’ve
had enough. When it’s safe to just look and when you need
to put it in your mouth and swallow it down.