Poetry

2003 -

Part of my experience of being a person on this planet has been exploring language and expression through verse. After writing a couple thousand poems over the course of 15+ years, it’s enough a part of my practice to proclaim I, a painter and a programmer, also partake in poetry and prose.

The selections below best express my days living in Seattle and Washington state. If after those, you are still thirsty, a more exhaustive list of my poetry is here.

SKAGIT

Fog in the low valley,
far west of the people.
She rolls in, misting
shiny red tulip heads.
Then, that sun tucked in
behind ruffling mountains;
He slowly rises by 5AM,
as though induced
by some erotic dream.
And she, spread over his bed,
is burnt away by golden kisses;
Until there are no remains
but the dripping petals,
the flexing mud,
and the people taking photos
of what had all at once
been the heavens and the earth
making early morning love.

Later, there would be cups of coffee,
plates of eggs, a waitress with a gimpy leg.
By all accounts, it was a fine day to escape Seattle—
where if the fog doesn’t burn away,
all love, hope, and ambition surely do.
It’s days like those in Skagit that keep me awake
on days like these;
Days without sun.
Days without dew.
Days without her.
Days like this day;
Waking up,
stepping out from bed
and noticing with naked toes
that her cat has shit on the rug.

My god, the things people will put up with
for the obscene pleasures of early morning love.

written on 10/05/2011 by: Matt Kane

PAST 45th.

When I think of Seattle,
I see myself walking long,
alone down 46th street,
holding my breath beneath Aurora;
Trodding my way to the stretch
on 45th.
A six foot tall stick of Bacon waves
from Archie McPhees.
I don’t stop.
Ice cream people line up outside Molly Moons.
I don’t stop.
*I want to, but I won’t.
Past Chocolati and my favorite cinnamon truffle.
Past Trophy and my favorite brown and blue plastic tablecloths.
Past Fainting Goat and my favorite translucent spoons.
Past Kuan Yin Teahouse and my favorite bald monk
with the fireplace channel crackling on his iPad.
Past the past and all that has passed, I don’t stop.
I am unstoppable, I think, but for one thing; DICKS.
When I think of Seattle, I think of stopping for DICKS; always.
DICKS, going down 45th.
One Deluxe and a side of fries and I was ready to keep going.
Unstoppable, I thought. Unstoppable, but for DICKS.

written on 09/25/2014 by: Matt Kane

COFFEE

THERE IS NOTHING MORE
MOTIVATING
THAN SWALLOWING
THE BITTERNESS
THAT ACCOMPANIES
EVERY MORNING
AND MOST AFTERNOONS.

written on 08/07/2014 by: Matt Kane

FIRST SNOW

The neighbor’s roof is half white.
A hawk sits in the apple tree
which hasn’t fruited for years.
I sip lukewarm earl grey tea,
listen to Claude Debussy
on ten dollar speakers
ordered on Amazon five years ago,
and watch the first snow fall.
“God must have awful dandruff,”
I hear the twelve year old
inside me
loudly and proudly proclaim.
It’s nice he’s still in there,
making his observations,
with all the other versions
we overthrew
because
nobody knows best like the present.
The hawk is still
there and so am I
and so
Debussy plays on.

written on 11/10/2017 by: Matt Kane

FIRST SNOW

It never really snows snow
in Seattle.
Not the way it snows snow
in Chicago.

Sometimes, I think I see
a single fluffy snowflake
gliding down, fat and mean—
breaking apart the gloom
of the uniform brown bricks
with a chubby silver gleam—
just outside my alley window.

I get up, rush over.
“The first snow,” I shout—
preparing to call my friends
and announce the arrival
in tweets and texts alike.
But after waiting ten seconds
for the snowstorm to buffer,
I come to the conclusion
that it was just a pigeon.

Might have been a seagull, also;
Shit or feather, I’m not so sure.
But it sure wasn’t snow.
Not the way snow is snow
in Chicago.

written on 01/11/2011 by: Matt Kane

PIONEER SQUARE

I am where the sun struggles
to burn itself into alleyways;
where dark mist relents;
where cloud ceilinged caverns
twinkle golden grout
as long dreary shadows fall,
sprinting down
to where men stood pissing
the night before.

Over the Sound,
blue sky breaks silver water
as a ferry horn
parts the sound of swishing
viaduct traffic.

I am alone, but for memory
of friends I once strode
these brown brick-lined streets with.
I am alone, but for memory
of my white Zeitgeist mocha
steaming turbulent shapes
up the entry to my brain,
as I prepared to board that sideways train.

I am forever wherever I have been;
where the sun struggles better than I did.
A place and a time that was never mine.
But no matter, I decide. No matter,
what was never mine. I remember.
That’s enough.

written on 03/06/2015 by: Matt Kane

BLACK FRIDAY GRAY

Rain caresses the city, soft like a kitty,
after a single week of snow settled in.
Layer upon layer of sediment sifts through
citizen sentiments— on the icy evidence
of a once great craze being washed away—
like royal yellow juices of the holiday bird
flushing down a toilet or garbage disposal,
or eventually both.
Snow in Seattle is like its grunge music.
After it is gone,
all that is left are the heroin addicts
and the Condo From Hell, smiling down.

I walk the thawing sidewalks, scouting
the discarded data, dug up by shuffling feet:
     Cracked eggs.
     Busted rubbers.
     Ragged plastic from the kite that got away.
Everything needed to reinvent childhood;
Reminding me I was a mistake on Valentine’s day.

Everything gray in this world
seems to be a slur of words;
Black ink pulled from paper, pulverized to pulp,
and blurred by breathy obscenities
mumbled while driving to Grandmothers house
in the snow.

Everything gray in this world
longs for the crispness of a poem—
which will never be spoken
because I, the undersigned,
lack the freedom to be heard.
And so we, the people, get filled
neither by black night or white snow—
but by the drab slush of tire treads,
crystallizing our disappointment
up and down the gray avenue curb.

written on 11/27/2010 by: Matt Kane

THE SUN TODAY

The sun today
like yellow cellophane.
We each sit, sipping hot
coffee and digesting
our digital lives.
We each sit, performing
passionless jobs; Knuckles
at the ready before blank
glowing cubes.
The sun today, for some,
will be all that was good;
The others, I suppose,
never woke up
and they probably never will.
Poetry is dull. Long live bullshit.
Long live the business man.
Long live his ego.
Long live the self hatred of every man
whose pockets never dug deep enough
to spare him ten minutes in the morning
for just himself and just himself
to adjust himself to his daily fact.
Long live the sun today,
like yellow cellophane,
and those who spared
the moment to notice.
Self pity at the ready,
my coffee cup is empty (again)
and it is time to go do the work
which is pointless because I possess the soul
that they yearn to buy, extending patio decks
and sun roof everything.
I hate them all, but they feed me,
so I guess I’ll spend another day
giving up on the dream,
so that they can sleep better in their lives,
knowing the add-to-cart button
was moved 2 pixels higher. Shit.
Fuck my life with an electric bayonet.
Is this what I am living for?
I’ll just keep the blinds
turned open, hoping for a more sunny metaphor.

written on 04/12/2012 by: Matt Kane

WASHINGTON

In Eastern Washington,
long shadows rise low
to fall high.

Thickets dot this desert
as
Douglas Fir do the forest.

Dilapidating barns
and telephone poles
stand erect or slump;
monuments to a century
old forest
and the sawmill harvest.
Long has flesh left
the bones of they;
these men of beards,
bad breathe,
and hatchets.
Here, then, they left us
their skeletons
of wood, iron, rust,
and general abandonment.
Men without women;
the true pioneers
of the state
I once lived.

Clouds follow
the eroding lines
running circles round
this landscape.
Boulders strewn from
Missoula to the Sound
cast no doubt of
an ancient glacier’s
flooding exit wound;
a crime scene
of melted ice
and the farmland
that’s prospered
from bled deposits.

I chew a croissant,
listening to a lady
about her once
dainty daughter
who’d moved to
North Dakota
for love of a farmer.
I pour more cream
in my coffee than she.

I’ve forgotten
so much of
this state.
This state, I see
again, now,
in a different
state of mind.
I’ve forgotten
so much of
this state,
having left it
one year ago.

It’s always easier
to remember,
harder to forget
and something else
to come back again;
something I can’t
put my finger on
quite yet.

I sit in my seat, as
the observation car
is gone. We disconnected
in Spokane from that train
with the cafe
that served the strongest
Amtrak coffee
because Janice makes it
how she likes to drink it.
That train went South
to Portland.

We pass through
a small town
of
wooden crates
full of grapes.
I remember this.
Oh Washington,
if I hadn’t left,
I probably never
would’ve.

In a dessert, though,
if you’re not growing,
then you’re probably
dying to leave.
So, it’s good
that I’d gone.
If you never
leave,
you can never
come back.
But of course,
you can never
truly come back,
anyway, “they” say.

I am a man, slowly
travelling by train,
searching for a state
that will have me
or invite me to have
it
longer than a minute.
My only interest
in having a state,
though,
is finding the state
of mind
only achieved by being
stateless.
It is this state
I belong;
the state I am in,
while writing
as the landscape
and my life
are blurred
by my utter
statelessness.

It’s not a bad state
to visit
if you have the time
to take some freedom.
It’s not a bad state.
But I’m not staying
forever. Few do.
I’m reminded
of
what we do leave
as I look down
at the tracks,
as they and time
rush by.
Wood, iron, and rust.
We are travelling
on the skeletons
of those
who laid the tracks
before us.

Men with beards
or
two days by train.
Either way
you trim it,
I think
I need
a shave.

written on 05/26/2014 by: Matt Kane

FEEDBACK

The past unfolds
like a heavy fog
unfurling over roofs.
It is the bedding we are
hopelessly wrapped
inside of by morning.
It sticks to our mossy outcrops,
to our bony landmarks and drips
within the sweet sticky pine sap
that lines our lungs
in our first exalted gasp
for the brisk briny air
of an open Northwest door.
We breathe it in all day long,
but only sense it with the rising sun.
It is tinged, somehow;
this scent from the surface
where risen bubbles burst;
what remains of the remains of sunken bodies?
of Orca whales?
of catches tossed back?
of missing persons ruled suicides?
There is a memory here
and another over there,
where I remember being with someone
who is no longer anywhere.
Gases of the decomposed roll in with the fog
to stir in freshly minted oxygen of Douglas Fir
and Sugar Pine.
The present bobs in the wake
of the past that went by.
What wave caused that wave?
Why are expressions of hello
identical to goodbye?

written on 10/11/2015 by: Matt Kane

salt water pine

a subtle sniffle of smoke
and the caw of the crows
whose shadow i know. yes,
and the neon runners
smudging crooked red lipstick
the opposite way
because I move clockwise
in the slow lane.

and the cat sits on the sill
and my heart is still so ill
and my rhymes rhyme like time
and my tea tastes nothing like
coffee.

(thump)

there is a passage
i know. a tunnel and a turnabout
where graffiti is cleaned
in misty blank veils of grey,
but the spiderwebs are made
welcome to stay.

here, i call home.
here is nowhere but somewhere
i am but for now,
then forever,
and never again.

written on 10/06/2015 by: Matt Kane

WEED MAN

He would sit in the weeds,
cross legged,
at Mercer and Fairview,
down the street
from where I lived.
He smoked weed too,
though not the same
he sat in.
He’d sit there and laugh
as I passed,
swinging my grocery bags.
And he’d sit there and laugh
as all the cars decided
north or south on the 5.
Weed Man’s skin was like
an old couch that only he
had ever sat in.

I pull up Street View and see
there are no more weeds
where Weed Man sat.
And everywhere,
there are new buildings.
And the old row houses
of South Lake Union
are long demolished;
fenced in front lawn memorials
to progress.
I remember them, though.
I remember how things were
before everything changed.
I remember the rosemary bush.
And the smokestack.
And the beautiful red moss
on the brick window sills
of the old laundry
when the sun struck it
just so;
they might’ve saved the facade
when they built what they built,
but they didn’t save
that.
I remember the joy
of free street parking, too,
though I never drove, then.

The friends I had,
the love I had,
the life I led,
and all I said
I’d do
but never got to.
I remember it all.
I remember this place
as our place
when it was our time.
Everything has changed.
Where has Weed Man gone?
And who does he laugh at,
now,
as they walk by
foolishly believing
this life they’re living
will go on this way forever?
Who does he laugh at,
now?
The Weed Man I remember
is gone, though
he knew it all along.
And that’s why he sat
and laughed
as he was baked
by an impermanent sun.
And that’s why
I remember him this night,
after forgetting
so many more.

written on 04/27/2016 by: Matt Kane