Matthea Harvey

The Future of Terror / 3

The generalissimo's glands directed him
to and fro. Geronimo! said the über-goon
we called God, and we were off to the races.
Never mind that we could only grow
grey things, that inspecting the horses' gums
in the gymnasium predicted a jagged
road ahead. We were tired of hard news—
it helped to turn down our hearing aids.
We could already all do impeccable imitations
of the idiot, his insistent incisors working on
a steak as he said there's an intimacy to invasion.
That much was true. When we got jaded
about joyrides, we could always play games
in the kitchen garden with the prisoners.
Jump the Gun, Fine Kettle of Fish and Kick
the Kidney were our favorites. The laws
the linguists thought up were particularly
lissome, full of magical loopholes that
spit out medals. When we ran out of room
on our uniforms, we pinned them to
our mourning bands, to our mops.
We had made the big time, but night nipped
at our heels. The navigator's needle swung
strangely, oscillating between the oilwells
and ask again later. We tried to pull ourselves
together by practicing quarterback sneaks
along the pylons, but the race to the ravine
was starting to feel as real as the R.I.P.'s
and roses carved into rock. Suddenly the sight
of a schoolbag could send us scrambling.


Terror of the Future / 8

The swallows formed subtitles for the clouds.
Sometimes you read them out loud to me:
The superexaminer will smell like sulfur,
a statement no less ominous than the stone lily
we stumbled across in the garden, stricken
there by some aggressive stare. When you wore
stilettos (you always wore stilettos), steady-going
was out of the question. As stammer is to
statement so was your wobbling to walking.
Like everything else, the sponging house
by the shore was swathed in smaze and hard
to find, but once there you could watch
through the window as sailors soaped off
their shipworms and schemed about getting back
out to sea. I thought that might be an idea
for you and me, but you, who hated a parade
and loved a recession, wanted to watch the tide go out
without us. One morning, I found you crying over
the blender—you'd read "pulse" as "repulse."
After that, you started hiding pennies
in the playhouse sheltered by the parentheses
of spruce trees, as if that constituted a plan.
I followed all your directions—to the North River
where there were no fish, and to the near-point,
where opthamologically-speaking
you could best keep an eye on me.

Matthea Harvey is the author of Sad Little Breathing Machine (Graywolf, 2004) and Pity the Bathtub Its Forced Embrace of the Human Form (Alice James Books, 2000). Her third book of poems, Modern Life is forthcoming from Graywolf in 2007. Her first children's book, The Little General and the Giant Snowflake, illustrated by Elizabeth Zechel, is forthcoming from Soft Skull. Matthea is a contributing editor to jubilat and BOMB. She teaches poetry at Sarah Lawrence and lives in Brooklyn.