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.
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.
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.