Matthew Carey Salyer

Matthew Carey Salyer is the author of a chapbook, Lambkin, and two collections, Ravage & Snare (2019) and Probation (forthcoming). His worked appears in journals such as Narrative, The Scores, Poetry Northwest, Southword, Beloit, The Common, Hunger Mountain, and others. He has twice been a finalist for the Iowa Review Prize in Poetry, a semifinalist for the Brittingham and Pollak Prizes in Poetry, and the Pushcart Prize. He works as an associate professor of literature at West Point and a bouncer in the Bronx.

The Going

Had a line without a poem with a horse on fire.
Thought, I should write that down before it’s gone.
Worked the door last Halloween past afterhour,
reading Oliver Stone’s dour script for Conan
on my iPhone, thought about what goes unmade,
how there must be unbearable solitude in achievement.
Best not to speculate. Didn’t the Barbarian’s creator,
Robert Howard, die from self-inflicted wounds,
quoting lines from ‘House of Caesar’ in the West?
There must be a thousand big goons in a boomtown.
When a man thinks about the past he becomes kinder,
KINDER, Andrei Tarkovsky said. I suppose
it’s the look of compassion you see on stallions in public
monuments, the bowed chin, on bit, bones in
lingual tension, or behind the restrained pose horseface
Conan assumes in Frank Frazetta’s illustrations.
I practice it in flashes on the backbar’s mirrored glass –
something that can take a hit, my gait as, my heart as.
I fake I’m watching Eoghan cut gain onstage
or the Melbourne Cup on TVG. FanDuel.
I learned the horses doing nights a yearlong,
working the door unlatched, letting Denil in again
to mop gore from his face, giving him shit, my shirt,
as though brute strength’s its own costume.
You might say Conan was a product-of-his-world like
real punters talk about conditions of The Going –
the green turf goes you hard & heavy, good or good.
To firm -to soft, soft – pliant enough to fall through
to the underage of earth, stirring in its soaked
fur like some antediluvian beast. Man, though,
naked, big, and dull as I’d look in the Hyborian Age,
I could forecast a foal. I could make its book
a line without a poem like my life for hire.

Contingent Faculties

Midmorning abeam, abuzz, aubade about
walking our old block, applauding the view
that Yonkers is fair facsimile of my twenties. I can’t.
I can’t unthink pariah dogs queuing on rain’s garnet,
canines bared like tracer bullets at the street – nothing new
about collaborating with synecdoche of oneself.
The past. I could touch it almost, open
the day like a devotional book, work its clasp like
a dog’s flews and stare down its gullet, gasp
into living dark. Wycliffe called it
vtmer derknessis in St. Matthew’s account
of the healing at Capernaum (the desperate centurion
with his palsied son), translating Christ’s address as Parable of the Weeds.
Ther schal be wepying and gryntyng of teeth.
My mind works through this forecast of tears
and how it was ten years before I first came to New York
that I last took the bus from Echo Industrial Park,
believing it possible, then, to be reborn as morning
is, shedding night’s clothes at the close of shift.
Now I dog the blunting of an uncertain future
at midcareer. Health to the new bosses, sure.
As Christ sat at meat in Matthew’s house,
loud as a beaten dog, perhaps my namesake knew
the thousand ways to be shameless in a small town.
Perhaps knew that for small men, leaving leaves
nothing to choose between living & the life.


NOVUS Literary and
Arts Journal
Lebanon, TN