MATTHEW ROHRER lives in New York City, where he is
a poetry editor for Fence.
I am trying to pry open your casket.
I attach no importance to life.
I believe in the stalled magnificence.
I have a little windmill on my head.
I have a terrible fear of being an animal.
I will sleep, I will sit alone late at night.
I know there is someone in the dark.
I keep feeling all space as my image,
I will sleep. I have a terrible fear of secrets.
ANCIENT CHINESE WAR
It is bittersweet to read a dispatch
from an ancient Chinese war
and learn that change is illusory.
A heavy yoke pulls, a pleasant yoke
dragging one down.
This is my religion.
I worship on my back at night.
Even you, whom I revere,
you are only one blade of grass,
and a green light shows through.
The light music
the sentimental love songs
you do not notice them
as they surround you.
You start to cry,
because you will never
be able to demonstrate
that your love for her
is your powersource,
it is a glowing rod in your chest;
because people die
without ever knowing
When you are turned out
of your home
by the menacing airplanes
what one thing do you carry
that helps you start again?
When you squat
in a roadside ditch
in the shade,
and the sentimental songs
where can you run?
And you will have no one
to turn to
among the beleaguered
and filthy battalions
of the Advance Guard.
MAPPING THE HUMAN GENOME
Today they announced the mapping
of the complete human genome.
It was an important day.
Rivals came together in front of the cameras
to share their findings, and back slapping
and horseplay. Everyone was watching
the rivals on camera and trying to see
out of their eyes, looking past everyone
into the future, and they did not notice
that a monster had crept into the basement,
they did not notice that when I was down there
putting away the box the new air conditioner came in,
he took a swipe at me with his yellow arm.
I blinked and it was over. America
was an enormous crystalline temple
swarming with vicious giraffes
A controlled, delayed gratification,
as long as it is controlled,
is what the dogs are after.
I am more than happy
to stand here, because I am so bored.
The cats are proud of their cover-alls.
The hamsters are sweating their balls off,
I think. The one Love Bird
cannot remember the tune.
I keep saying the names for things
until they arenít the names anymore.
The rabbits wince at music.
The dogs have certain guarantees.
The poor cows.
I work late and drink myself to sleep.
The dogs are smelly.
The gerbils escape.
The gerbils are gone.
The hamsters are so courteous!
The dogs are in another league.
Everything understands sex better than I do.
The hamsters saw off the limb
theyíre sitting on.
The cats motion to something
we cannot see in the other room.
But I know more about the machinery of night
than the birds do,
I know about the bigger cloth.
NEW YEAR'S EVE
Bare trees in front of brown buildings.
A pale dry wreath.
The bright red ribbon hanging and broken
stands for all of this century's cruelty.
The street is quiet.
Mammoth fog spreads along the ground.
The ribbon should be enormous,
the road should be made of ribbon,
the trees swathed, the babies swaddled.
Men should open their red doors
and stagger into the street wrapped blind by the ribbon.
The sun should rise and burn through the fog
like red ribbon, it should hang down and touch us all.
It should never, anywhere, in any book, be suggested
that it was the century of the bare tree
and brown building,
the century of a man stepping onto his stoop for the Times,
even if that man obsessively runs his hand across his
even if that man suffers! Only if that man
goes back in and throws his own child
against the red bricks can he stand for us.