Three Poems from Matt Longabucco

These three pieces are from Matt Longabucco's manuscript of poems written in the voice of Juan Garcia Madero, the 17-year-old Mexican-born narrator of parts 1 and 3 of  Roberto Bolaño's The Savage Detectives. In the novel, Madero's work appears to be lost.

Last August at Bard College, I heard Matt read from this manuscript and invited him to send me some work for xpoetics, and he gaciously agreed. Gracias Matt!

All Shook Up

The troglodyte in leathers,
the cartes de visite in the library display case,
the strange action of balloons in drafty rooms,
the rust on the car’s white paint job
           that makes the machine-nature of the car
           overpower its beast-nature,
the poem that can never be written—
            the one called “Teens on the Beach.”

To share my thoughts with others
in this odd, frankly historical way
is bliss. Four-times-folded pages.
People who don’t know when to shut up,
or who seem insensible to their own slightly
bad odor, fill me with tenderness (after all—
my beastly odor, yesterday),
but it’s a tenderness I must nevertheless
go home and stub out
like a cigarette
in a dish.

Do not go inside police stations or lawyer dens,
do not bathe in public fountains
           till after midnight,
do not snatch up the beautiful children
           in the square to augment the audience
           at your poetry reading or workshop,
do not tell someone they stopped making
           sense an hour ago just as they reach
           the climax of their murderous harangue.

I can take a pounding,
emotionally, and have learnt to grasp
from the spine, like a creature.
I don’t mind fucking up my good looks
with drugs and sleep deprivation
and lack of proper nutrition.
As if I were not already invisible,
like the man in Kierkegaaard
who leaves no footprints.

Five Finger Discount

He evinced a vast multiplicity
as safeguard against ironic twists.
What a mentor, degenerate, and friend.
I his subaltern and pet cricket.
When you steal away what do you steal?
Getting high in the field, close
to the ancient places, those chakras
of the earth, and feeling nothing,
not the surprised plaintive nothing of the tourist,
nor the resolved bemused nothing of the commandant,
but the nothing of a child at a funeral,
or the nothing of a prostitute
whose sadness before the act is the sadness
of freedom, the freedom to arrange sprigs
of blossom in a peaceful room,
a room of almost Swedish calm and proportion,
in the world wrapped around this one,
torus-shaped world,
the very one Socrates stands in the courtyard
visiting, in the Symposium, and even though
dinner’s ready they don’t dare call him in.
I spent the day reaching out to others,
but the slogans stood between us
like a cheval de frise,
and even in the mirror of the puddles
the slogans, and even on the legends
of city buses the slogans,
not the radio ads of the true poet
Robert Desnos but the slogans
of the pitiless cigarette-strewn streets,
the atom bomb for
atom-bomb junkies, look,
there are some things worse than atom-
bombs, there are neighborhoods so bad
even atom-bombs won't drop on them,
because the motherfuckers there
will steal anything and will steal
the atoms right out of an atom bomb,
though what on earth could they want with them
but they do. Then drifting back,
together, to the outskirts, the arm’s-length
of the city, and someone: the maxim:
limit your wanting to what your arm
can reach. Trying to maintain.
I couldn’t eat a thing, thanks.
I’m sick with health, whichever philosopher
proclaimed moisture the element of the world
is the one you’d want to date.
In the park two girlfriends held hands,
so skinny their socks were loose,
heads together shooting out a bolt of laughter,
and an old lady on a bench looking like
“That’s the way it is.” “The world
is for consciousness” says Unamuno,
but the stain of enthusiasm is on it,
like sticking your face under the water
running from the jagged mouth
of the great gaping corrugated drainpipe
where it empties into the trench
and drinking some.

The Hunters

Are watchers alive?
Depends: what do the living talk about?
In the café, in the daytime
or else at night,
I heard that unruly friend of mine—
who loves me, or doesn’t—
discourse, in shredded voice,
upon the nature of a virtue
she felt sure we’d all dismiss as merely quaint,
it being neither insight nor stamina nor political engagement
but trust,
trust even among,
and here her fork quivered in the plausible
and thunder shook the windows
and rain spattered the glass like blood
from a cut jugular,
even or especially among the friends assembled there,
trust that makes time as real as concrete pouring,
trust that leaves all parties to it exposed
like, what else could she say,
like vaginas,
those organs of trust
for which trust is a flowering,
and everyone’s face flushed, like labia,
and drinking drinks wondered what,
in 20 years, would become of the assembly
or more correctly of the bonds that joined them,
bonds that already seemed, this day or night,
as fragile as spiderwebs,
and when finally they all turned to me I realized
I was the one caught,
and when confronted would I reveal
that an act waits caged within me
like a half-crazed wild boar?

Matt Longabucco’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Clock, With+Stand, Painted Bride Quarterly, Conduit, Pleiades, and Washington Square.  He teaches writing and literature in the Liberal Studies Program at New York University, and co-curates the POD reading series in Park Slope.  He lives with his wife and daughter in Brooklyn.  

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