Poems by Ryan Mattern

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Norco, California

by Ryan Mattern

From Canary Fall 2016

Ryan lives on the Monterey Bay Peninsula, but grew up in the valley between Mt Baldy and Mt San Jacinto, on the San Andreas Fault and the Santa Margarita Watershed.

You are stuck in traffic. There is nothing to do
but ignore the world while it makes
you motionless. The air is working

and you are comfortable, just late.
You’ve found, like others, you are always late.
In front of you is a flatbed hauling

huge and fabled palm trees,
their roots wrapped in several towels.
You wonder where they’re taking them

and who would pay for them to be taken.
It seems so stupid to you, paying for them.
But suddenly you’re struck by these trees.

This is a motivated memory:

the sun exploding through the fronds
of the giant palm in your backyard.
The fat thing in the V of the fence,

as seminal to your childhood
as stink bombs and bare feet.
You are watching from the porch

while the city cuts it down –
it had grown too high, interfered with phone lines.
It took them all afternoon, firemen carrying

the huge leaves through the side of your house,
wheel barrowing the trunk, hacked to squares
with chainsaws, to the wood chipper out front.

Just before sunset you remember, while staring
at the stopped truck in front of you, the family
of pigeons who lined the fence that evening

and cooed until morning.




Somewhere in Barstow

by Ryan Mattern

From Canary Summer 2016

When you leave here, go to the beach.
Sift through the dolphin carcass –
the one that made regional news,
was left as a statement

against commercial fishing
or nuclear energy or smoking
(you could never follow) ––
and find the mushrooms growing

through its shining, gull-picked
ribs. Dust off the sand and fire-
weed pollen. Sing the song
your grandmother taught you

when the two of you named
stars on a serape somewhere
in Barstow. The night sky
was oil running over asphalt.

You forget some of the lyrics.
It’s ok, you repeat, until they return.




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