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 (