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Each Day a Gift
by David Matthews
She was fresh out of detox,
What I soon found would be
An ongoing affair,
The day I turned in my work ID
And office keys.
I put the knife to my throat
The night before.
"I pulled it back," I told them.
"I just can't do this anymore."

The bounce of hair caught my eye, her bare legs,
The loose red skirt, and a smirk of a smile,
As she pulled back a chair, turned her eyes to
The Toulouse-Lautrec print there on the wall
Near the door, and asked did I mind, as if
She knew I might, but it did not too much
Matter. The place was packed, a déjà vu
Kind of crowd on a je ne regrette rien
Kind of afternoon. I raised my eyes from
The Sunday Times and said nothing. She took
It for an invitation and sat down.
I was thinking, if only I could be
A lone sparrow silhouetted against
The unbearable blue of evening sky,
To harken rain that might now wash away
The stain of tears from all we once held dear.
"I have been on the wagon for a week."
The words spilled from her as she sipped coffee black.
"I do not care for it much. You can sink
In your despair or swim in your dreams, paint
A different color on your rainbow, find
A name you can use to say who you are
And what it means. One day you learn it does
Not matter who you used to be. You are
Just another grievous angel swept up
In a flood of fire. The cross I was brought
To bear is gone. It did not fit my needs
Anyway. So what would your story be?"
Before I could answer, she said she knew
A better place, where the coffee was dark
Enough to make way for the darkest mood.
I said it sounded good to me and made
My way with her out to the street, the sky
A brilliant blue, the air soft-bright and breezy,
A snowfall of cherry blossom to dust
The dragon boats stretched out along the river.
A man whose studded ears drooped to his collar
Asked could I do with a good suicide
Assistance guy, as he brushed stringy hair
Back from his caved-in face with a limp hand
Missing a finger or maybe it was
Two, then suggested he could fix me up
With a woman who would do what I like.
I asked if I must choose one or the other.
He said, "It's your life. You do what you want...
Some of the time, anyway." Then the sky
Grew dark with clouds that of a sudden came
And rain poured down in silver sheets that drove
Us on to huddle in the gloom beneath
The bridge, where the dark protected me from
So much I knew it was best not to see.
A poet has no need of suicide
Assistance, she pointed out with a smile.
All a poet needs is a bridge above
A bit of river, a boat in the Gulf
Where he might remove his jacket, fold it,
Place it down just so, jump into the blue,
A noose, a revolver with a bullet
In one chamber, a razor blade for blood
To scrawl one last poem on the dirty wall
Of an unremarkable room in this
Shabby tenement we call life.
They say everything has its season, but
When your seasons run together and all
To hell, it's a fine mess that's left us, Ollie.
Each day you pull back from it all,
Step away from the bridge, the boat, the noose,
The revolver, the razor, and the rest,
Anchor your spirit, this clod of a self,
To this patch of dark earth, this bit of dirt
And treachery your poor words are thrown up
            The rain stopped. She stepped
Out into the fragile, shivering light,
Her pale, slender fingers reaching for mine.
"I am not here," she said, "to reassure
Anyone, not even myself, you know.
I could do with a face-lift for my soul."
The little sparrow sang and broke your heart,
A fog of cigarette smoke, dream, and whiskey
Coloring the night she brought just for you.
These gifts are always suspect when they come
From poets and chanteuses, but you take them
Anyway, a beauty bitter and dark.
I followed her and followed her again.
There was nowhere else to go, just a promise
Of mountains to the east and a pale moon
That clung to them in full daylight, Childe Roland
To the dark castle bound and must go on.
I cut my teeth on the ten thousand dreams
And left blood on typewriter keys that flashed
In the sun of mornings that will not dawn
Again, gone, like a book we must have read,
A line of poetry or a melody we
Almost remember when it slips like time
Through our thoughts, with only hints that remain
Of what was brilliant, green, gold, vermilion.
We take what we have and make what we can
Of it, this dark earth, the encircling sky.
She waits for the bells that ring through the fog
Where a green horse holds a clock with no hands
And the bridegroom there with his heart in his throat.
A Russian painting of geranium
Bloom endures whole in her heart far beyond
Its fade and passing, a bloom rich and deep
As a low-country door born from the brush
Of an anonymous master somewhere
In the sixteenth century. She goes on...
While I navigate that drunken boat down
The delirious river, back to where
I have never been, claim those lines that hold
In my spirit like a brushfire, cleave to
The vision, make each day a gift once more.




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