Winter 2009 - THE POTOMAC

Three Poems
   Stephen Matanle

The Bell

I loved the tinny greeting of the little bell over the door
as I entered the liquor store when it first opened.
I loved it more than the glorious solemnity of churchbells.
It shook with a sound that reminded me of the bright
and tiny souvenirs of ordinary life on a charm bracelet
my wife was wearing as she waved goodbye.
No time of day was more forgiving than that moment
when the bell announced my trembling hopeful presence.
Sometime in the night, listening to the quiet delirium
of a neighbor's wind chimes, I would realize
the season was about to change. I had almost forgotten
there were seasons. It made so little difference
when the only things that would change were the clothes
I wore to the liquor store. I suppose there was a time
when I could not have imagined the end of summer
would seem inconsequential, but it did,
along with everything else, every promise and loss,
everything but the cheerful lamentation of that little bell.

Man With a Suitcase

I waited outside the liquor store shaking. The rippling light
lent the empty morning an aura of extravagance, there was more
vacancy wherever I looked than I could comprehend. Whether
or not I'm remembering any of this correctly, the world of
disappointments and worries, that world was not going anywhere.
Everything else was going backwards, shadows going in the wrong
direction. Suddenly a green suitcase came flying out of a window
and sprung open on the sidewalk. Most people walked around it,
but a few stopped and sorted through its contents and took things
that I guess they thought would fit them or someone they knew.
Pretty soon a man came out of a house and collected the items
of clothing that were scattered about and tried to close the suitcase.
The latches were broken so he just gripped it under his arm and
walked away into the next part of his life. About then the owner
of the liquor store unlocked the door and I walked in, standing there
for a moment and performing my foolish but necessary ritual
of looking at the rows of bottles as if trying to decide what to buy
before asking for what I always asked for, and the owner's wife
came out of a back room, greeting me, as the man with the suitcase
might eventually be greeted when he figured out someplace to go.

Just This

My horoscope said nothing about the waywardness and brevity
of happiness, the clothes hanging in her closet with the price tags
still on them or the bruises I didn't remember how I got.
Parts of our lives were like phrases in a letter that have been
crossed out. My wife was often little more than a modified blur,
sitting in an empty room in the fading light. Being married
to her was like being the caretaker of a haunted house. Eventually
I just wanted to be a ghost too. Our life sounded like someone
blowing into an empty bottle, although once in a while
it sounded like music, hollow ballads of love and estrangement.
Sometimes we would go to the Laundromat at night
and dump our clothes in a couple of washing machines, then go
down the street to a bar and forget about them, returning later to find
the damp tangled clothes piled on a folding table. We were people
of flawed judgment with debts like a blind three-legged dog
that followed us everywhere. We had a talent for making other
people regret their good intentions. Every day I read my horoscope
to find out what to expect, and every day it said, just this.

Top | Home / Mailing List / Contact
All materials, text, images 2006 - 2009 The Potomac. All rights reserved.