Baker

Cover 14

Self-portrait as the Wax of Icarus’ Wings

Matthew W. Baker

I lie between the body and being
                        not bound by the body:
                        the wings’ glue and the catalyst
            for the fall as if
when the feathers were plucked,

the still-warm corpses of birds knew—
                        their beaks partially parted
                        as if in supplication,
            as if in condemnation
as my body mixed with what was stolen

from them and the ropes and pulleys
                        and thin metal tubes of the greater
                        device. And at the straps
            slipping over Icarus’ shoulders—
a slight susurrus of friction.

And the first flap, electric—
                        a test; the second a confirmation, followed
                        by more, his body finally
            unhooked from the hard ground, my body
glistening in the light between the feathers

like something unsayable just then.
                        How much heat can a body take
                        before it starts to break
            down? And like the lightness he surely feels
bloom in his stomach, I too feel

an unraveling. But not guilt
                        when the wings and my body—
                        spread too thin, wafering
            in the sun—begin
to part. More like resignation.

As heat excites my molecules,
                        I can do nothing
                        except watch myself liquefy
            and begin to drop,
almost in tandem with Icarus, the color

draining from his face
                        as the wind empties
                        from his lungs and his screaming
            halts—as he plummets faster,
his limbs reduced to rags

clawing at the invisible
                        rungs of sky.

space break

Looking for Traces of My Dead(beat) Father in the Mirror

            —after Linda Gregerson

I remember wattles—your fatness
            drooping from your cheeks—,
Chinese checkers, the stale (each week

I asked you to take me home
            earlier) cigarette stench
of your condo (only a mile away

from my mother’s). I turn
            sideways in the mirror,
no longer searching, this exercise

a waste. I am here; you are gone.
            You wouldn’t give up
(your toes purpled, blackened,

increasingly unfeeling nubs)
            your two packs a day.
The quadruple bypass (poisoned

transfused blood the surgeon used
            cutting up your vents
and soldering them back together) failed,

but oh to have been there
            looking into your chest
cavity (this distance) understanding

the geography of your sickly skin
            I fear could one day
be mine in this my almost eleventh year

(self-imposed) of never having
            visited your grave.

space break

Against ancestry.com

Before my leg my mother’s egg.
Before the rice the field. Before the after
the in-between. Look: root system
poking above dirt, sinuous slips around rock

and do I care who my father is?
My father the sperm crashing into the egg.
My father the fog scattered by dawn.
Me the in-between matrix of two bodies

colliding in space. Stop.
How can one make sense of a bloom?
Before taxonomy Linnaeus. A field
of red poppies and then a lone

pink bud. Why? To be suddenly
offered legibility after decades.
Was I illegible before?
To click would confirm

a want to know the source.
And yes. And yet…
No, winnow the tree before
it is a tree. Instead of the tree,

the fields, the weeds, the undiscovered
country of grass oblivious to each human
breath. Yes, the night sky exploded
into unpeopled galaxies

and invisible gasses, into expanses linked
by emptiness or whatever line
my eyes draw: each object mythologized
however I choose.

Matthew W. Baker currently lives in Reno, NV and teaches English at the Davidson Academy of Nevada. He received an MFA in Poetry from the University of Nevada, Reno. Some of his work has appeared in Sierra Nevada Review, Yemassee Journal, The Meadow, Swamp Ape Review, and antiBODY: An Anthology of Poetry and Medicine, among others. Follow him on Twitter @mmbakes.

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