Scrabble with Matthews

By David Wojahn b. 1953 David Wojahn
Jerboa on a triple: I was in for it,   
my zither on a double looking feeble   

as a "promising" first book. Oedipal & reckless,   
my scheme would fail: keep him a couple drinks   

ahead, & perhaps the muse would smile   
upon me with some ses or some blanks.   

January, Vermont: snowflakes teased the windows   
of the Burlington airport bar. The waitress   

tallied tips & channel-surfed above the amber   
stutter of the snowplow's light: it couldn't   

keep up, either. Visibility to zero, nothing taking off   
& his dulcimer before me (50 bonus points   

for "bingos") like a cautionary tale. The night   
before I'd been his warm up act,   

the audience of expensive preppies   
doubling to twenty when he shambled   

to the podium to give them Martial   
& his then-new poems. "Why do you write   

something nobody reads anymore?" queried one   
little trust fund in a blazer. "Because   

I'm willing to be honestly confused   
& honestly fearful." Il miglior fabbro,   

a.k.a. Prez: sweet & fitting honorifics he has left   
upon the living's lips. Sweet & fitting too   

that I could know the poems much better than   
the man, flawed as I am told he was. Connoisseur   

of word-root & amphibrach, of Coltrane   
solo & of California reds, of box score & Horatian loss,   

his garrulousness formidable & masking   
a shyness I could never penetrate, meeting him   

would always find me tongue-tied,   
minding my ps & qs, the latter of which   

I could not play, failing three times to draw a u.   
The dead care nothing for our eulogies:   

he wrote this many times & well.   
& yet I pray his rumpled daimonion

shall guide our letters forward   
as they wend the snow-white notebook leaves,   

the stanzas scrolling down the laptop screens.   
Game after game & the snow labored on.   

Phalanx, bourboned whiteout & the board aglow   
as he'd best me again & again. Qintar

& prosody, the runway lights enshrouded   
& the wind, endquote, shook the panes.

Source: Poetry (October 2002).

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Poet David Wojahn b. 1953

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Arts & Sciences, Winter, Relationships, Friends & Enemies, Nature, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Poetry & Poets, Humor & Satire

Poetic Terms Allusion, Couplet