Two Poems

June 14, 2017
Rich, “On a Saturday Afternoon” (on the road from Royal, Nebraska, to the Ashfall Fossil Beds), May 25, 2013
Rich, “On a Saturday Afternoon” (on the road from Royal, Nebraska, to the Ashfall Fossil Beds), May 25, 2013

Creation Stories

My favorite creation story right now
is the Babylonian one,
where Apsu and Tiamat, beautiful calm lovers,
fill themselves with that new-universe smell at everything’s beginning;

they sleep luxurious in a silken bed big as orchards,
basking as the sun rolls high into the heavens
when they choose to
maybe get up.

And soon enough, of course, they have children;
first, Ed,
then all his many brothers. It’s at this point
Apsu and Tiamat find themselves

not so much wrapped in an ocean
of pillows and duvets,
tides of comforters, billows of throws,
showers of blankets and quilts.

No.
Ed
and all his many brothers
are noisy little fuckers.

No sooner does Apsu drift off
than Ed and whatsisface start screaming,
no sooner does Tiamat weigh anchor on her crystal canoe
than Ed and whatsisbutt crack it to slivers with their bootstomps and shrieks.

I should note
that Apsu and Tiamat
are not irrational parents.
They are no doubt good people,

perhaps delirious,
sleep-deprived good people;
and Apsu, naturally,
decides to kill every last goddamn mongrel in the lot.

That’s what the great myths are about.
Dreams about the restoration of paradise; something
we’ve all known and lost hold of
at some point.

Apsu, of course, underestimates the squawking runts, doesn’t see it coming until
Ed’s footy pajama footpad is crushing his throat into the woven flooring,
Tiamat flown in terror and fury but no match for Ed and all his many brothers and
the hooligan friends they’ve come to make,
they rip her out of the stars
to scatter like hail across the earth.

My wife and I
are expecting our second child.

We are not
the oceans and the freshwater seas,

we are not
the ancient gods.

We are good people,
yet, still, I admit,

a little
fearful.

 

The poet’s daughter Sophia at the Ashfall Fossil Beds in September 2011 / Courtesy of the author
The poet’s daughter Sophia at the Ashfall Fossil Beds in September 2011 / Courtesy of the author

Ode to My Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park Keychain

My fingers rub the texture of rhinoceros,
sky, ash plume, letters declaring “Orchard

Nebraska,” you remind me of wonder,
of rhinos and camels who made their homes in Nebraska, bones

disguised into chalky midwest rock; you
are a clock tick

become geology; you
are a three-hour drive

past corn and cows and soybean plants
when Sophia turned five,

first road trip for just us two.
Sophia owned fossil books, rock books, she

walked the short trail, played with the toad she found,
didn’t stay long

under the barntop covering fossils
that a man dressed in white brushed out of landscape;

she didn’t care so much
about that. She did care

about the ice cream, the
storm clouds that didn’t break, the cactus,

in Nebraska, pulling itself out of sand,
small wildflowers, the world

three hours’ drive,
the time, the change here in History

before the historical, day like a shiny paperback
shelved next to the bone-hard cover with pages the color of sun through an ash cloud.

Keychain, you’re on your second car.
She doesn’t read about rocks anymore.

She is so quiet
and scared of fourth grade, doesn’t want to go back there tomorrow.

That day,
every thing she asked for,

plastic dinosaurs from the gift shop, stop at that playground, can I
have dessert, everything,

yes,
yes,

way back in time
when I still

could make things
right.

Matt Mason (matt.midverse.com) has won a Pushcart Prize and two Nebraska Book Awards; was a finalist for the position of Nebraska State Poet; and organized and run poetry programming with the U.S. Department of State in Nepal, Romania, Botswana, and Belarus. He has over two hundred publications in magazines and anthologies, including Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry and on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. His most recent book, The Baby That Ate Cincinnati, was released in 2013. Matt lives in Omaha with his wife, the poet Sarah McKinstry-Brown, and daughters Sophia and Lucia.

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