Today's poem is by Clay Matthews


I was not so keen as the others on the sing-a-long,
the group hug, the Hello, my name is: (some squiggly
magic markings), pleased to meet you, so good to know you,

now please leave me to my terrible glass of punch.
I don't remember where this was, exactly, it was so many
places, so many occasions, it was a sexual harassment

seminar or a student meet-and-greet but every time
no matter what was going down I'd find a way to give
everyone the slip, and head out to the parking lot.

For this and other reasons I equate parking lots
with an undeniable sense of freedom—which doesn't
make any sense because in many ways parking lots

are the opposite of freedom, but there you go, anyway.
What have I learned? I have learned five methods
to develop self confidence, I have learned all the fire exits,

I have learned the difference between How are you doing,
and How you doin'. I have learned somewhere along the way
not to answer questions in poems if you ask them,

but what kind of sick trick is that? Gone away is the bluebird.
The latest version of the power structure (whatever it is)
that places the wrong people in the wrong place at the wrong

time and with the wrong, wrong music was my friend's
holiday party, before which I drank a large cup of gin
just so I could get up the nerve to talk to people and be decent,

just because for her sake I didn't want to be such a shit.
But it was too much gin or not enough oxygen and in the middle
of a conversation about the cocktail weenies I couldn't

stop calling the stove an ove and the oven a stoven.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Who wants this? Maybe it's just
because we need something during those emotional periods

of the year—the new job, new manual, the holidays (we've all
got issues). Maybe it's like in that movie where people
crash their cars into each other just to have the sensation

of communicating. Who knows, I guess. Ninety-percent of our lives
nothing happens that is worth telling, but we tell it anyway.
We say Hello, my name is Clay, that's a nice tie clip, you don't say.

And the music or the speech always gets so bad that at some point
I start to love it, and begin to watch how careful we are with each
other, how very kind, how politely we plan our escapes.

Copyright © 2009 Clay Matthews All rights reserved
from The Journal
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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