Matt Longabucco

Traversal

The smog showed up early for work,
the garbage strike scratched its hairy belly and yawned,
have you ever awoken in a big city
and felt the tidal wave of coffee hitting a million cups at once,
and the earthquake of a million forks scraping plates of ham and eggs,
is that why I felt seasick,
or like I was seeing myself from a rooftop,
or like I was beside myself, as the angry or bereft say,
still in my clothes and boots at sunrise
when my last thought before sleep had been
now I’ll finally be able to think, in the dark,
but by morning the same snarl of hair in the shower drain
or so I imagine—I didn’t shower,
but lit out without disturbing anything
for a place where no one expected me,
hoofed it over miles of city streets
onto which windowblinds seized open
like the eyelids of the appalled,
and gates went up like prison gates,
and the problem of evil trickled by like rivulets of dog piss,
hungry and still a little giddy I felt
a thousand years old, because my teeth felt like
if I brought them together too hard they’d shatter
on contact and split like gravestones on Judgment Day,
and my arms felt heavy and beyond my control,
and the wrinkles in my clothes made me notice
the wrinkles in everyone’s clothes,
around paunches and over broad backs and bunched-up behind knees,
I passed a meaningful-to-me intersection
whose asphalt reality I either perceived directly
or else copied, using my senses, inside my brain—
what difference does it make?—
then took a break,
if there’s a big table who am I not to sit at it,
waited on by a woman in a gently wrinkled shirt
and while I waited tried to follow a conversation about sports
going on too close by to let me think of anything else,
is soccer accidents or the space between accidents,
the net of the smog or the pungent offering of smoke,
the artist’s overreliance on accident or is it underreliance on true accident,
in the x-ray of the sun in the public square
my obsessions shone in my bones,
I really had swallowed the key,
a fountain in that gale made my last cigarette damp
from fifteen feet away, she’d been crying
while I was washing up, and when I realized I went
and held her with the water still running full blast,
until finally I turned and took a faucet in each hand to shut them,
and it was like holding the knobs of her knees—
what a door they open—
as I walked what I saw were the doors that open up all morning long,
while other doors open in the night and close in the morning,
and still other doors open only in the night and you step through into
another world, and then the door or portal slams shut behind you,
so that you turn around and find the door not only shut
but its knob gone, and its hinges gone,
and the wall as seamless as if no door had ever been there,
and you think what if I have just walked through the door
that leads into things, nightmare-door
that strands you inside the things that the people on the other side
will forever handle, contemplate, and use.
Wendy XuMatt Longabucco’s work has recently appeared in Aufgabe, The Brooklyn Rail, Parkett and The Death and Life of American Cities.  He is the Friday Night Series coordinator at the Poetry Project.