Matt Mauch

buckled into a volkswagen, we make up the couple at the center of the story, two-as-one standing in for the many, holding hands over the shifter, peering through windows into apartments in old houses, where the lights over the kitchen sinks, in the old way, are always left on

We’re shaken not stirred
into the perfect, we give of ourselves to you, so guzzle us

drink, in front of the free clinic,
by a pothole we promise to name, so we’ll remember it,

long after it’s filled.

We feel like sticky film from an old Polaroid,
our colors and edges drying,

destined for a shoebox, so that those who partake of us
will always remember us, and what size we were,

before we became a part of them. The tubes in neon signs
are like nerves in surgically exposed spines,

hawking flowers and beer. At the red light

we stretch like window cats, backwards over form-fitting seats,
like the wrongfully executed

are being reincarnated into us. The light at dusk,
like the bright, dying-star years at the end of life,

infuses our skin, makes the yellow-brown of summer
that was on us

look creamy. We can’t

walk well under the weight
of all these pages of instructions for what to do next,

all this being followed around,
like we’re siting on offers of work,

so we surrender our ability to walk

and slide instead through grass
like worms in a heap of compost greens.

We eat all the strawberries we brought, call them

little hearts, as if we’ve made a fresh kill,

say My kingdom, as in I’d give it
to have invented the oak tree in silhouette,

dominating the horizon in its blue nightgown,

to say yes here, no there, and have it matter,
like one of us is latitude, and the other atmospherics.

Because we don’t know the language,

we buy food in foil, via gesture, from the street vendors
in the cities at the tips of the oak tree’s roots.

Insert comet. Name it after yourself.

Enter morning, a bloodied sunrise, the horizon splashed
with gasps from the last-gasp jar.

Cue the light of day. Cup water from a sink, palm it, some of it,
molding what stays

into a face.