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Matthew James Babcock

BabcockMatthew James Babcock: Idahoan, writer, failed breakdancer. Books include Points of Reference (Folded Word); Strange Terrain (Mad Hat); Heterodoxologies (Educe Press); Four Tales of Troubled Love (Harvard Square Editions); Future Perfect (forthcoming, Engine Books, 2020). Notable awards include Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry ($5,000); Juxtaprose Poetry ($500); Lucidity Magazine Poetry ($1.00).

Last Day

To your eyes the glare of morning
cascades on Madison Junior High School
like the shattered glass case
of all the gold trophies ever won
in the Worldwide Tournament of Hurt.
You drop off your daughter
and she gambols among eighth graders
across wet grass, a fluid feat
of decadence in a masque
of merry chances. The boys and girls
gleefully swing red yearbooks
in vinyl slipcovers like minor deities
wielding glittering bucklers
against the bright stains of age.
Too swift to counter or clock, today
becomes the day you wonder how the girls
who were as old as she is now
looked like sumptuous Amazons,
always blowing up your body like a gland
when they brushed against you
to clank a quarter in Phil Collins,
always kickstarting the blue promenade
of your breath into a calamity
of mad crusades. Then you stood
in the uncertain architecture of your blood,
already amazed at the dances of desire,
believing the rumors could be true
about skin and spirit, the two
who everyone said would always be a couple
but who suddenly split up
on the last day before summer break
and move away to distant towns,
no more substantial than the changes
in phases of daylight, no more sure
than the signatures of hundreds of friends.

On All the Park Benches

where I sit some deceased nobody
makes resting a forced memorial.
You should be able to relax
without mounted plaques
making you slouch in the ghosts
of strangers like a vagrant
trying on a dumpster of used bathrobes.
Who cares about the Beth Williamses
and green gazebos in Everett,
Washington, “Because She Loved This Place”;
The Shane and Sharon Vandygriffs
on concrete contours at a South Dakota
rest stop, “Remembered Fondly”;
the Jeremiah Renfrew-Shakars
bolted to polished salmon sandstone
in a Henderson suburb, “Never Gone,
Never Forgotten”? Who can savor
reverie with the dead crowding
our down time, waving scanty résumés
like third graders believing
the store-bought valentines
in their hands, always hijacking
the social elevator to the penthouse
with the glass rotunda? This is my memo
to the parks office: I shall not
reincarnate as a picnic shelter
where stepmothers in orange sweat pants
can chow cheeseburgers and chase
pedophiles with reptile eyes
from their little second chances.
No matter who comes to you
with fat donation envelopes, no matter
the sentimental slogans or hand-made
brass designs, strew my ashes
in the water supply so when people
spread gaudy patchwork quilts
and unpack ham sandwiches in the sun
like penitents sacrificing to the gods
of leisure, I’ll send them screaming
from the sudden shower of the sprinklers
on the one memorable day
I gave them comfort in my nameless rain.
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