Clay Matthews

This is the Steeple

Summer and southbound and the sound
of the Allman Brothers on the radio
carrying out some anthem about revival
until a guitar solo and the road and your thumbs
on the steering wheel meet at some point
high in the distance atop which two bars
of steel meet and go their separate ways, leaving
at their intersection a cross sans crucifixion,
so that time and tempered metal become crucifiction
at the hands of we the poor spellers and story
tellers. There was a church. This is the steeple.
Look down there inside at what we call
the people. And all history save that which is
not history takes place in the shadows
of one of these or one of those, but shadows
in general, as the battle between right word
and wrong word took place and takes place
again as you give this Chevy some gas. I say you
because I mean not only you but also me because
sometimes I need a little open space to get outside
myself and say Son, look at what you’ve become.
You have no faith in the church, no faith
in the people, but faith nonetheless in the sharp
points of the steeple—in the time it marks
across the hillside, the roadside, as the sun moves
from east to west, then east to west, then east
to west again. And I have a faith in this, too, though
part of me truly expects to wake one day and find
things moving the other way. I say truly
and I mean it. I say I mean it and I mean I mean
nothing, and cannot say anything truly. I have
no preoccupations at this moment other than this
and the smell of gasoline on my fingers.
A community is that which builds itself
under the humility of some larger structure.
And whether we sing from the rooftops
or jump from them, there is a high point
we leave behind when we go on our going away.

Clay Matthews’ work is published (or will be) in Black Warrior Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Drunken Boat, H_NGM_N, CrossConnect, New Orleans Review, Forklift, Ohio, and elsewhere. His chapbook, Muffler, is out from H_NGM_N B_ _KS.