Sunday, February 13, 2011

So Close

Listen to audio version:

Last night you balanced a cigarette between two fingers. 

Smoke wafted from its burning tip, trembled, danced and disappeared
to thin air.  You had your elbow propped on the arm of your chair.

Your wrist was bent, fragile and posed as if it might break
against the slightest force. 
     An incongruent gesture. 

The sculptural permanence of your stilled and quieted hand
with the cigarette smoke, winding, and the rest of you,

falling to pieces.

No one breaks my heart the way you do,
the fragments cut precise like colored tiles

arranged, piece by piece, a mosaic of what it once was.
But the best part, you say, is being in love with you

And you fall apart again.

Beneath the sheets upon which we are written burns
a fire out of control.  I put my hand in it, steady

against the pain, stoking and quenching, as if sheer force
could tame it.  But the effort is vast, and the gesture is puny,

and no way will I ever be able to undo the incongruity.

If I could map us and fold the paper just so, we would occupy
intimate positions—not the same space at the same time, but so close

we could feel each other.

I have never been here in this precise location. 
I have never been moved, so close to the edge. 

The ground trembles beneath our feet.  Shifting and eroding
against the elements of our nature, the line between us

parts, grows wider, becomes cavernous.  I have never stared
from so high a precipice.  Weak-kneed and dizzy, my gaze

fixed on the architectural dimensions, the 3-D reality
of depth perception, I could fall and die from here.
Or I could risk the long, dive to the moving waters below. 

Either way, I am here, precisely here, on the verge of becoming
something else. And you are there, precisely there, contemplating

your own tragedy. 

Together, we weigh the possibilities for what might be salvaged,
reshaped from loss.  Both of us poised,
so close to breaking.

© Ami Mattison

Flickr photo courtesy of igormazic


  1. I admire your readings so much, and this one is especially strong, I think.

    The contrast of the smoke curling and the wrist "bent, fragile and posed" is wonderful. You sustain the sense of contrast, of fragmenting well, especially into and through that slide into the jolting, wake-up line "No one breaks my heart the way you do" . I also like the line "the effort is vast, the gesture is puny". Tight write and very well done, Ami!

  2. Maureen, thank you! Your opinion means a lot to me. I've never felt all that comfortable with this poem as it tends to be a little more abstract in its language. But it makes me feel better to know that you caught my vibe. ;) And oh yeah, the audio is soooo much fun!

  3. What a beautiful poem! I agree with Maureen about the strength of your contrasts throughout. The image of lines throughout this piece grabbed my attention.

    Your image of folding paper "just so" to get close enough, aligned right enough to "feel each other" makes my whole self smile. Because, I can relate to that sentiment/wish/desire. "precisely here, on the verge of becoming something else" is another lovely example of the line, the edge that spoke to me. It was delightful to read and hear and contemplate your poem. Bravo!

    I really like the audio. I've thought about adding it to my site for over a year now. But after visiting here and other poets' sites with audio, I'm convinced I'm not ready yet. And that's alright, too. I'm inspired just the same. Thank you.

  4. Thank you so much, Shari, for your generous comments! It makes me happy that you enjoyed the poem. And I consider it high praise indeed to inspire another. Thanks for dropping by!

  5. Ami,

    I want to lick the lines of this poem & savor the bittersweetness as they melt on my tongue. your command of this poem is addictive & powerful. to hear it spoken just adds a new wonder & heartbreak - what control! this certainly inspires.

  6. Ah, your comments, sMichelle, always delight me! It pleases me that you like this poem. The reading is a bit more controlled and precise (and slower) than I usually opt for, but it seemed right for this poem. Thanks!

  7. "No one breaks my heart the way you do." Oh yeah.

    I am in llove with that first section. (and with the are an ace at writing ending lines) I think that when you write about a single other person in the particular (the cigarette makes it immediate, intimate and real) you are at your best. You just blow me away when you do that. (the run to the store and the movie theater scenes in "Linger for example). 'll be honest, the third section, except for the last line, loses me somewhat. I undersgtand it, but it doesn't engage me like the rest of the poem does, because the scale is too large...the whole earth-shifting metaphor gets too far away from what you're really talking about here, in my opinion. One of your deft descriptions of an expression or gesture that expresses a larger emotional shift would work better, I think, and you're more than capable of it. My opinion only, and offered because i fucking love your work.



  8. Thanks so much, FB, for your thoughtful and thought-provoking comment. I've always had a problem with this poem, but I could only ever say that it just 'isn't my strongest.' And I think you've really honed-in on how parts of it diverge from my strengths. Thanks for that! Definitely food for thought!