The Poetry Section: Two Poems by Matthea Harvey

by Mark Bibbins, Editor

The Poetry Section

Today, The Poetry Section is pleased to deliver two new poems by Matthea Harvey, who lives in Brooklyn.

No-Hands has hands but he keeps them clenched in fists at his chest. He appeared long ago on the dustiest day. Some say the sunset sent him. The children are fearless-they’ll caress the two moles on the back of his right hand, bring their softest animals to rub past his bare ankles. When the town committee put the most delicious cake (with glossy fondant and candied pansies) in front of No-Hands, he didn’t lunge for it, didn’t even lick his lips. No one has seen him eat, but we imagine him gnawing on the fruit of low-hanging branches, licking the leftover jello from the schoolchildren’s lunch trays. If we could discover his diet, we’d remake his food with twice the butter and cream, sit back and wait until his ballooning belly forced his arms out and away from his body. We’re not thinking “ta-da!”-flock of doves or drawbridge comma princess, but we do dream about his fingers unfurling like sea anemones. We just want him to understand the hose dribbling next to each tree, why I give you something and you take it from me.

Our American husbands were born
on a day of cartoon clouds and neon sun.
They don’t remember their fathers
whispering Ferris Wheel lullabies over
their cradles, but they can do somersaults
while smoking. Their banter is full of data.
They have kiss quotas and the shoulders
of soldiers. While our small selves made
toast points and played post office,
they were practicing love-hate with
the heads of state. I’ve asked, so I know
our American husbands didn’t have hamsters;
they had can-do cats and piggy-banks.
Don’t get me wrong-I’ve added
up my toys a time or two, but when
they whistle dixie, I wonder.
Remember the Halloween I was a Bruise
and you were a Moving Picture
and our American husbands picked masks
that made the most of their noses? Sister,
I envy that with the zippers on their jackets
they can mimic the sound of rain.
When our American husbands take out
the trash, the garbage-engorged flies
don’t thud against their heads.
They have extravagant smiles
and can run for miles. When they go
into their studies, they study.

Matthea Harvey is the author of three books of poetry: Modern Life (Graywolf, 2007), Sad Little Breathing Machine (Graywolf, 2004) and Pity the Bathtub Its Forced Embrace of the Human Form (Alice James Books, 2000); and a children’s book, The Little General and the Giant Snowflake (Tin House, 2009), illustrated by Elizabeth Zechel. Her website is Matthea Harvey.

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