Today's poem is by Christopher Matthews


Because aggression damns us to a clumsy
intimacy with what we misunderstand,
I took my big plastic lime-green

baseball bat and pitched to myself
and knocked with a shivering thwonk
my last Whiffle ball across both fences—

our six-foot wooden one and their
waist-high chain-link, and the weedy ten-foot
no-man's-land in between—and watched it

land like an empty skull among the sad
toupees of grass, shed quills of ill birds,
and a dead tree's old propellers of seed

in their dusty backyard. Within minutes
a woman my mother's age in a flimsy
worn-out dress led me through their house

to the back, where she set a foot on the snout
of their scabby little sausage of a pit-bull
so I could kneel and retrieve my ball—

so I could see, as the dress pulled back,
her legs and their dark inflammations,
dizzy with bruises, pitted in a pattern

concentrated at the ankles. Sure,
now the mind lurches at causes—
but we have to ignore what I had no idea of

to see what I learned: What skin felt like
when it crawled, and how to begin the unfinished
education in how to feel indebted

to what makes it crawl. All because,
like some ancient city's founder, she showed me
the way and kept the beast down;

all because she dipped her hand
in a birdbath's stew of bugs and cigarettes
and flicked it on the hide of that which

had not yet learned surrender.
And right there sprang up
some muddy dream's first bud.

Copyright © 2007 Christopher Matthews All rights reserved
from Beloit Poetry Journal
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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