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Treatise on the Black Hole of Everyday Things

Clay Matthews

Tonight some satellite up in space, we’ll call it American
because it feels better, studies the rings of Saturn,

or perhaps one of Jupiter’s moons, I really can’t remember,
except that someone is watching, someone

is interested. Me I look at the commode during a commercial
break, and wonder where exactly it is things go

when things go away. Once as children we tied letters
to small balloons filled with helium, and let them off

as a class beside the swing set, watching them drift
into the sky until at last the sun became too bright to stand.

Dear friend in a foreign land. Stop. Please write back. Stop.
There are many things I’d like to know. Stop.

And Tommy who sat two desks over got a letter
months later from east Kentucky, and some other girl

a postcard from Tennessee. Me, nothing. Mine, gone
into the infinite abyss where all such things must go,

like the only birthday card I ever planned to keep or that Goya print
I brought back on an airplane from Spain. And so space.

And so a vacuum. Outside in the night. Outside in the empty darkness.
I call into the sky’s face, where the gravity sucks in and won’t let go.


Once as a house it was old and the stairs creaked.
The tour guide held onto the banister and pointed

to a painting of a man in a blue suit. See how his eyes
follow you no matter where you go, she said.

See how you cannot escape. In the parlor we had coffee
and an older lady in traditional Victorian garb

told us the story of the woman who lived in the house
years ago. If you’re still you can feel her now.

And the strange events equal to the weight of a ghost.
The forks that disappeared from the dinner table.

The silver spoons gone from the cupboard.
The black-handled scissors that cut out her very frame

from pin-striped material, sucked into oblivion
like the legend of the Colonel who once stopped here,

and watched her each night wash her hair
in the low light of an upstairs window.


My friend, who went inside himself when his wife left,
and took to the bottle, and took to pills and meth,

and became a sort of poster board cut-out of the man
that used to be, which is to say I am nostalgic

for the light that once was. Which is to say I hope
he’s still bouncing around somewhere within

that white chest, the black monster of memory still
too strong to let go. And so is this a question

of will? And so is this a natural law? Part of me
wants to believe there’s something left

that still wants out. My physics instructor
pulls down his glasses and says, I’m sorry, son, but no.


You wonder how I could forget the words
to the record played on a little plastic turntable

each night when I was young to put me to sleep.
Friends, I have forgotten. Friends, I forget.

Sometimes, though, it seems the tune comes to me,
but then another tune will not let go, and what was once

the first song turns into the beginning of Stairway to Heaven,
or perhaps even another song by Cat Stevens.

This the house that eats things. This the house
that always wins. It opens up behind the stairwell and swallows

everything from the grocery list to my high school diploma.
When these things go they don’t come back.

It’s a bit like a movie I once watched,
Rudolph and the Island of the Misfit Toys,

where on this island in the middle of nowhere
all the raggedy and broken toys, like the kite

that was scared of heights, live out a sad existence
until one day all the good toys go missing

and Rudolph gives them a chance. Then Tony Bennett
sings a song, and all the other toys

eventually return, so it’s not really the same
except that I can’t remember where that movie went,

and it seems now I want desperately to see it.
But before Rudolph found it, the Island of Misfit Toys

was something like black matter. And since we might agree
Rudolph doesn’t exist, if we suspend

only half our disbelief, we might argue that island is still
out there somewhere, cold and calling out.


So the search for Amelia Earhart has been called off.
So it goes. So be it, we say. Like that song by Dion and the Belmonts,

“Abraham, Martin, and John,” where this poor bastard
is searching for American heroes, and I want to say

Give it up, they’re all dead, but something about the song
makes me hold back and get sentimental.

Things gone and things to come that will go.
We are building a history of forgetfulness.

And so I call out into the night, Amelia.
And so I call out into the night, Abraham.

And so I call out into the night, Martin, Bobby, John.
And stillness. Things settling. An airplane blinking

alone in the sky, taking one person away from another
for what might as well be called forever.

Clay Matthews

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