Matthew Carey Salyer

A Still Life with Dead Birds and a Hare
Studio of: Frans Snyders, 1579-1657
Medium (TMS): Oil on oak panel
Used with permission from the National Gallery of Ireland


Skylines taking our breath; the night as if we do.
Rust town rooftops where we could talk to death.
My mother fares, expects the worst of Dublin
men as one jumbo, flaring the ridge of its tongue.
Love’s labor should be lost on sons, respect.
Her Liffey as ars poetica of self-induced hunger.
Say, ‘Time is a river,’ resistless. Say something.
I am older than my mother come-to-Dublin.
I am hardhanded, heavy as father in rum.
Once, she went three days north, us boys in tow.
On the fourth day, I was my grandfather’s son.
Fifth, heir to where. In my dowager’s reign
I washed the living clock of stars I did not know.
On the sixth, O what was my unwithheld name?
Tonight, seven crows nest in my ribs like God.
I sleep under a carved relief of a muzzled dog.
‘Eat,’ my mother would say, ‘or we’ll both starve.’

Ποταμός τίς ἐστι τῶν γινομένων καὶ ῥεῦμα
βίαιον ὁ αἰών: ἅμα τε γὰρ ὤφθη ἕκαστον,
καὶ παρενήνεκται καὶ ἄλλο παραφέρεται, τ
ὸ δὲ ἐνεχθήσεται.

Time is a river, a violent current of events,
glimpsed once and already carried past us,
and another follows and is gone.

        Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 4.43

“I’m An Excavator”

New Jersey come pick up your daughters again
or the turnpike grans will curse your right-hand
Manhattan from chemical headlands. Who knew.
I, a pale, smooth animal in my death-trap
drive through the wither-land asking.
Blake’s furnaces burn past I-95’s anvil.
Smoke black-stripes sunset its tiger tail.
Long-haul flights from EWR capsize to beads
of firelight on my windshield, ‘subtil particles,’
Blake might say, ‘seiz’d, beating incessant’
as my mind’s ‘chained Orb in their infinite wombs.’
Thoughts like these. Blue love. Byproduct.
Dust like mine, holding the print of your hand.
Inadvertence, its own adverbial charm.
I adjust the rearview’s jawbone with my thumb.
The mirror, honest as rust. My dumb alarm.
What’s good, big man.
In this. Your forged and feckless form.

Χρὴ καὶ τὰ τοιαῦτα παραφυλάσσειν, ὅτι κ
αὶ τὰ ἐπιγινόμενα τοῖς φύσει γινομένοις ἔχ
ει τι εὔχαρι καὶ ἐπαγωγόν. οἷον ἄρτου ὀπτ
ωμένου παραρρήγνυταί τινα μέρη: καὶ ταῦ
τα οὖν τὰ διέχοντα οὕτως καὶ τρόπον τινὰ
παρὰ τὸ ἐπάγγελμα τῆς ἀρτοποιίας ἔχοντα
ἐπιπρέπει πως καὶ προθυμίαν πρὸς τὴν τρο
φὴν ἰδίως ἀνακινεῖ.

We should remember that even Nature’s
inadvertence has its own charm, its own
attractiveness. The way loaves split open
on top in the oven; the ridges are just by-
products of the baking and yet pleasing,
somehow: they rouse our appetite without
knowing why.

       Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 3.2

Matthew Carey Salyer is an associate professor of English at West Point. He is the author of Ravage & Snare and Lambkin. His poems have appeared in Narrative, Poetry Northwest, Beloit Poetry, Hunger Mountain, The Common, The Scores, New Orleans Review, and numerous other journals.

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