Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Discarded Halo by Matthew Olzmann

Matthew Olzmann just had a chapbook published. It's available through www.puddinghouse.com - at least, it is published by them. Personally, I found their Web site migraine inducing and impossible to navigate, so you might just want to contact Matthew directly at matthewolzmann@gmail.com.

Below is a poem I first came across in The Boxcar Poetry Review last year. At the time I did not know who Matthew Olzmann was (I now have the pleasure of knowing Matthew and his wife, Vievee Francis, who is also a poet). "Nate's Glass Eye" opens Matthew's chapbook and, in my opinion, says plenty about why you should want to read the rest.

Nate’s Glass Eye
By Matthew Olzmann

I ask him to keep an eye on my things.
I return to find a blue iris and a pupil that never
dilates, glaring up at me from my plate
of fettuccini and stuffed olives.

I used to believe the body was like Lego bricks,
pieces that could be plucked off and replaced,
a simple procedure, executed by any man
with a scalpel, a wrench, a green mask.

My wife has had seven surgeries.
Her thyroid gland is in a jar, waiting for her
in the ether of eternity. She has no way
to grow a new one, but a lifetime of pills

tells her she doesn’t have to. Donate your organs
after death, and they call the art of extracting
your entrails organ recovery, as if the heart
were a vessel, buried by the waves,

and a team of rescue divers could salvage
the remains. I used to believe
if the body died, the guts went as well.
But kidneys can be kept alive for twenty hours

after the body’s expiration date. The heart,
almost as long if death is due to massive
head trauma. And if the gears can fit
into another puzzle, they can continue

flexing, asking, What time is the game,
or, Where do I live? But what happens to the man
whose heart tries to hammer its way out
through a stranger’s chest—the rest

of him stumbling through shadows, a hand
exploring the hole in his torso, searching for valves
that the mouth can no longer name. I used to believe
the body came with a warranty, breath was certain.

But what’s it mean when you stare into an eye
without a lid or a fist without fingers?
And what kind of sign is it, when the parts
built from glass outlast what’s left of the flesh?

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