Four Poems by Matthew Byrne


A Poem About Poetry

I tried to write a poem about poetry
by writing a poem without any mention
of poetry. My aim was high, mind sifting
through images, hoping to strain a kernel
of code worth the work of encryption.
Instead, a vulgar parade of nothingness
marched beneath my skull. Bratty kids
lined the sidewalks, scooping up candy,
poking between the legs of their exhausted
mothers and predatory, hungover fathers.
The air was humid, the overcast sky bright
regardless. Veterans, unions, tubists,
cheerleaders, businesses, baton twirlers,
non-profits, and other cartels pendulated
between smiling waves and murmuring
among themselves, their faces crinkling
conspiratorially. Some local politician
rolled by with a megaphone on a float,
barking promises, issuing salt-of-the-earth
prosaicisms with ill-disguised pomposity.
When the Medinah Shriners whizzed by
in figure eights on their motorized magic
carpets, I had seen enough. I abruptly left
my desk, and spent the night’s duration
prostrate and fondling the remote control,
lolling in hedonism, getting good television.


Grand Opening

I dropped my health club membership
and joined a yoga studio. I started
with a level one class, where refugees
from lifting and running united
in the pursuit of increased flexibility.
We expected yoga to be of a more
meditative nature, but our sweat
spilled all over the mats. I must confess
that I probably would have hung it up
were the teacher not a sinewy redhead
with a tendency to press her hips on me
during adjustments. When I advanced
to level two, my classmates, mostly
female, achieved positions that would
make a pornographer blush. I became
paranoid that my classmates could sense
my imaginings, so I made it my mission
to detach myself from the eroticism
of it all. I practiced every day, often twice,
and tried to close my eyes as much
as possible. I failed, I should be locked up,
but the studio I opened lacks not
in the membership department.

Good Riddance

For many years my pet parrot perched
on my shoulder when I went out to get
the paper. Then one day he takes off
while I’m walking down the driveway,
and lands on my next door neighbor’s
For Sale sign. After all those years of
feeding him, cleaning his cage, letting
him bathe in the kitchen sink, putting up
with his constant screeching – for what,
to look at my shoulder only to find it bereft
of the ungrateful bastard? I shuffle through
the dewy grass in my new velvet slippers,
extend my arm and command him to step up.
This merely provokes him into flapping
from the sign onto my neighbor’s roof.
Before I can turn to get my ladder he sails
off for the horizon, squawking with abandon,
bound for a different kind of cage.

Miffed but Unflinching

Aunt Agnes can’t decide where to move,
Miami or San Diego. She’s an executive,
lives alone. She calls me only at a crossroads,
and gets a little too personal for a relative,
if you ask me. My job requires such exhaustive
precision, she explains, that I can’t make
a domestic decision to save my life.
So we concoct a list of pros and cons, which ends
in a dead tie. Just pick one for me, she commands.
I barely know you, I protest, and pick San Diego.
So it’s hardball you wanna play, she says,
and tells me that I was adopted — twice.
Miffed but unflinching, I tell her that we all think
her an ice queen by way of an asexual vegan.
At this she chuckles lasciviously, and tells me
that she is a butcher, her own best customer to boot,
with a history of pornographic bit parts.
Well I’ve been one doozy of a husband to you,
I respond, to which no rebuttal yet exists.