2 Poems by Matthew Richards

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Memorial Day

I didn’t know him well enough,
but I trusted humanity that day,
so I conjured bravery
and asked him to turn
the car around and drive
to his house on the outskirts.

The doorway summoned me.
My feet shuffled past the
throbbing bookcases
to his bedroom,
where I disrobed
to the sky’s hissing pops
of what my mother might think.

Chest hair glistening from the
shower, he slid into bed beside
me. Asked if I was nervous.
I pressed his face into my face,
letting the Necco wafer taste
of his saliva drip through my
lips like First Communion.

And when I saw that he still
wanted me after, I took
his hand to my mouth,
sucking the moisture
off each finger, once for every time
anyone has ever made me feel
ashamed about my body. Then,

I tongued his wedding ring
until I forgot everything
I ever knew about ownership:
that my heart is a broken stopwatch
I left in a straight man’s pocket
years ago, that my surname
is a city I abandoned, that virginity
bubbles from my skin like a fever.

Praise this act of not needing forgiveness.
Praise our collarbones. Praise our necks.
Praise this warm cock in my hand,
this nipple ring in my mouth, these toes
curling into his legs at every gasp.

Praise that his skin is a temple to a goddess
I haven’t learned to pray to. Praise his glorious
baldness, the acne on my shoulders,
the gap in my smile, the patch of fur
covering his lower back. Praise this body,
which is not an apology. Praise the fireworks
outside. Praise the tombstones we built
for all the labels others have given us.

Praise that he did not tear through me
like a winter wind through bare branches.
Praise that sex never comes as advertised.
Praise the night when we cast out the
baggage of our identities and exposed ourselves,

a mess of windowless bodies
discovering each other in the summer dark.

La Douleur Exquise

Wrench my heart, Unrequited Love,
the one that leaks inside my chest

like a faucet: a frantic water pump
in a race against the bluegrass band

that plays whenever the kitchen sink
sighs itself to sleep. Fix me

in carbonite, so my ache may marinate
like the bucket in which the butter churns.

The year I learned love
was the year I became captive

on the cutthroat rowboat of my desire,
but the rapids are not something to get over.

A soul mate is not a glass slipper
after midnight: no, it is the person

who knows best how to wear you
like sandpaper. It is the vase at the pit

of your throat, a bouquet of second choices
blooming at each new opportunity.

I want to thank you for this compass
I heal around, this pain exquisite,

these stubbed toes to keep me from clotting.
Blessed is the doorjamb that keeps the heart open.

(Audio recorded by William James. Bio photo taken by Rebecca Lynn Parent.)

Matthew Richards

Matthew Richards lives in Manchester, NH. He competed at the 2011 National Poetry Slam as a member of the Slam Free or Die team. He was an organizer in Occupy NH. You may find videos of his performances on his youtube channel. : youtube.com/user/MattRichardsPoetry