Surrounded By Friends by Matthew Rohrer

Matthew Rohrer reads five poems from his collection Surrounded By Friends, published in April by Wave Books. 

Le Machine Ate Himself

Le machine ate himself the card that is mine
I said, and I have need of the card
now, and thank you, I have a grand problem.
She said le blah blah blah blah blah
to which I nodded and gave thanks.
Come back in the afternoon, she said
and I said thank you, and I'm dead.

Poem Written With Bashō

A photograph
on the back of a hand mirror
resembles someone you knew
who sang themselves utterly away.
It cannot touch you
or the sound of the rapids.
Leave it, and walk farther
crawling up my leg
to find me all smiles
attached to nothing.
You and I can stay
in the morning dew.
My little telephone
in the mulberry fields
going unanswered
on that blade of grass.

Poem Written With Bashō

I began to doubt myself
borrowed a woman’s nightgown
and walked through the park
to see poems pasted to a wall.
I took such a deep breath
the tide rose almost to my door.
Friends too far away
while dawn arrives
I send them a text
and sleep awhile.
I know a little light goes on
in the sound of wind.

Photographs of Allen Ginsberg at the Grey Gallery, NYC

Photographs of young people
growing old are like lights on
in a tall building
and the sun still in the sky.
It is a very special melancholy
to be replaced on the streets
surrounded on all sides
by windows
—a break to text
are you high?
—good—the Ginsberg
photos are great—
they are much better
than this poem—
where a traveler takes
a self-portrait
beneath the arch.
And yet there is something
about a photograph
that poisons the heart.

Poem for Edna St. Vincent Millay

The next thing I am going to say
is a secret. In World War II
they told Edna St. Vincent Millay
about all the invasions
so she could write a poem
for each one, a poem
like a bottle of champagne
to be smashed against
a ship before it sails
and everyone sat and listened
to the poem
on the radio and imagined
things in his or her mind
that the words weren’t really saying
rolling back and forth
in a chair, steam
rising from dinner
she spread all her poems
out across New England
acres of them, dreadful, she said
everyone has her own
version of a lonely life
the temperature drops
20 degrees the kids
are in bed a wind
blows through all the windows
at once knocking the hanging pots
and pans together
like a gentle quake
we hear what we want
to hear the invasion
has been called off
the pots and pans ding
gently in the kitchen
the invasion is what
we want it to be
this is a poem
you can smash against it
before it sails
then finish your dinner
it is not one
of the saddest poems
ever written
Edna St. Vincent Millay
wrote that it’s called LAMENT
only one person dies in it
a poem where thousands
of people die
just isn’t as sad.

Excerpted from Surrounded By Friends by Matthew Rohrer with permission of Wave Books. Copyright (c) 2015 by Matthew Rohrer.