Clay Matthews The 2River View, 8.3 (Spring 2004)
Where a Poem Meets Its Maker

Be spoiled in the right ways. If your work feels mediocre, if it demeans your spirit, burn it.

Larry Levis in an interview with Michael White

Before anything, know that this is how you’ll go:
Highway 61 and we’re close enough to smell Memphis,
barbeque, dry rub, paprika and cayenne
mixed with the scent of the Mississippi’s roux.

In the back seat of a Cadillac, white leather, silver trim,
heading south and its blues on the radio.
Time is as smooth as a Robert Johnson slide,
a sad whine of steel over the engine’s hum,
picked slowly, held onto, felt like howled words.

Outside Clarksdale we’ll stop for gasoline,
drink cold beer and burn the roofs of our mouths
on fried chicken until we can’t taste
where we came from any more.

And when 61 hits 49, I’ll slow the big car down,
drive slow through the lifeless buildings,
the boarded windows. When we park
in the empty lot beside the intersection,
there won’t be time for goodbyes.

While you’re still inside, stretched across
the car’s seat sleeping, I’ll douse the carriage top
with gas, light it up and I’m gone,
everything ending in flames, a blues progression
the only suitable sound to take this all away.

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