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Clay Matthews

The First Law of Robotics

What kind of malfunction brought you,

little daffodil, with the afterbirth

of an early February frost; what maker

of clocks, what loosed screw; what turned

and left the heart to beat alone

on the operating table while outside those doors

a woman sat and read in a magazine

how to be young forever. Childish thing, grown now

into this beast with poor penmanship and tax forms,

spent tea bags and the dandelion chain

your daughter draped over her wrist

in a gone summer while bees buzzed in the clover.

Sometimes I feel like I need to say love

a thousand times. Who would resist?

Inconsequential and robotic;

I am not really knowing myself these days.

Twenty-five years ago herpes chewed through the brain

of one E.P., coring his mind like an apple;

he remembers nothing, and takes his place in the world

as a man who eats breakfast and then goes for long walks.

What wound to have it all taken from you;

what blessing? What haunts us is a gift,

this bonfire of the hippocampus

burning a thousand Polaroids of fathers

throwing children into the air and mothers

drinking martinis; these are the birdish things that never return

and the sounds of wind through chimes before the storm.

I wonder now if anything is real—

standing against the privet, whispering secrets

to the seeds you’ve planted there in the garden.


Clay Matthews has published poetry in journals such as the American Poetry Review, Image, Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. His books are Superfecta (Ghost Road Press), RUNOFF (BlazeVox), Pretty, Rooster and Shore (both from Cooper Dillon), and Four-Way Lug Wrench (Main Street Rag Books). He currently lives in Elizabethtown, KY and teaches at Elizabethtown Community & Technical College.

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