By William Matthews 1942–1997 William Matthews
the only parts of the body the same   
size at birth as they’ll always be.   
“That’s why all babies are beautiful,”   
Thurber used to say as he grew   
blind—not dark, he’d go on   
to explain, but floating in a pale   
light always, a kind of candlelit   
murk from a sourceless light.   
He needed dark to see:
for a while he drew on black   
paper with white pastel chalk   
but it grew worse. Light bored   
into his eyes but where did it go?   
Into a sea of phosphenes,
along the wet fuse of some dead   
nerve, it hid everywhere and couldn’t   
be found. I’ve used up
three guesses, all of them
right. It’s like scuba diving, going down   
into the black cone-tip that dives   
farther than I can, though I dive   
closer all the time.

William Matthews, “Eyes:” from Selected Poems and Translations, 1969-1991. Copyright © 1992 by William Matthews. Reprinted with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved, www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com.

Source: Selected Poems and Translations 1969-1991 (Little Brown and Company, 1992)

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Poet William Matthews 1942–1997

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Living, Health & Illness, Nature, The Body, Arts & Sciences

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 William  Matthews


William Matthews's poetry has earned him a reputation as a master of well-turned phrases, wise sayings, and rich metaphors. Much of Matthews's poetry explores the themes of life cycles, the passage of time, and the nature of human consciousness. In another type of poem, he focuses on his particular enthusiasms: jazz music, basketball, and his children. His early writing was free-form and epigrammatic. As his career has . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Health & Illness, Nature, The Body, Arts & Sciences

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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