Two Poems

Poetry / Matthew Lippman

:: Partway ::

Partway through the airplane I saw Kansas. 
It was cut up into squares and circles of earth 
that made no sense. 
There were a lot of worms down there. 
Partway through the cutting of the worm into two 
I saw Kansas. 
I was between Kansas City and Missouri. 
The vapor trails reminded me of worms 
and my sister was on a red couch in England. 
Partway between the Atlantic Ocean and New York she was a mermaid. 
Then she was the loneliest woman on the planet between planets. 
When my wife said I am not afraid of death anymore 
her mother had died partway between January and June. 
You could see her eyes in the Santa Rosa fires 
that burned half of Marin County partway between home and the parkway. 
Everyone travels to get somewhere soft 
even if there is a missile in the wallet 
or a mallet in the parking lot. 
Partway between destruction and devastation 
there is a marigold or a bowl of lentil soup 
that took five hours to simmer. 
It’s a happiness of 
I need to get to you 
you are already here. 
Every time I walk in the front door 
I am partway a party boy and partway 
a junkyard dog. 
I have my days.
Some days they are other days 
and most days they are not. 


:: Some Other Part ::

You can have the other part of the dream. 
The part where the wolves eat the fawn. 
The part where the dead lady in 4c 
gets her eyes eaten by the cat.
She’s been dead for days 
and no one wants to go near that part. 
I’ll take the part
where a warrior-spirit goes to help his brother or his sister 
or the fallen child in the lava pit 
who certainly won’t make it.
You can have the other part, 
the piece where the dream is mangled by the kid on his skateboard 
who has spitballs of acid in his throat. 
That part where he throws them against the wall to get through 
to something worthy pretty 
or to just make trouble for the rest of us. 
You can have the other part of love,
the part that everyone wants to call hate 
but we know goddamn well does not even come close. 
It’s the part of other that has a bird in it or a wombat. 
Some creature that knows how to kill to live 
and couldn’t, in your wildest dreams, play the saxophone. 
That saxophone part. 
Not the keys or the copper 
but the part where it gets shoved up in the air and meets the warrior God—
that membrane of purple and orange 
that sounds vaguely like dying 
but does not even come close. 


From the writer

:: Account ::

Thinking about halves these days. How nothing is whole. Or, nothing feels whole. Not the self, or maybe the self, but more, the world. Things feel in parts. Either, broken and splintered into parts, busted in half, cracked and demolished or, out there in pieces, waiting to be put back together. Someone out there—us, you, me, them—waiting to gather the chunks and put them back, hopefully, in some beautiful shape or form. I’m talking about the country, the culture, the neighborhood, the vibe, the groove, the collective state of being, these men who have done horrible things to women, to people. So, these poems started happening with the word “part” in them. Five came in one night, one exhausted hour after midnight, me thinking about all these men rambling on—apologies, non-apologies, fucked up histories that led them to asshole-ness, to crimes, to injustices, indecencies against women and other living things. I wanted to scream at the TV and radio, “You have fucking daughters.” I just wanted to stop listening and then I realized—kinda, sorta, all the way—that I am a man, part of that tribe but not all the way, just part of the way, but a man, still. So, I asked myself, “What can you do, buckaroo?” and it just seemed to me that I could listen better. Especially to my daughters. Just listen better and shut the fuck up, which the poems are, a shutting up, a silencing of self, a self-reflective turning inward to investigate. A listening with wordfulness. A prayer. A part of the puzzle, of putting things back together if, in fact, they have that kind of power or resonance, poems. I am interested in this—in parts, parts coming together to make other parts, not necessarily to make things whole, come to think of it, but just to make them better. And I do mean, better, because there is a better out there and it comes from being together, working together, communing—youmeweus—and it is a little naïve and perhaps there is a boatload of wishful thinking in the thinking that poems can help to facilitate that process. But I believe it, partly, part way, in part because there is hope in my heart and I have daughters.


Matthew Lippman is the author of four poetry collections—The New Year of Yellow, winner of the Kathryn A. Morton Prize (Sarabande Books, 2007), Monkey Bars (Typecast Publishing, 2010), Salami Jew (Racing Form Press, 2014), and American Chew, winner of the Burnside Review of Books Poetry Prize (Burnside Review Press, 2013). He is the editor and founder of the web-based project Love’s Executive Order (