Morningside Heights, July

By William Matthews 1942–1997 William Matthews
Haze. Three student violists boarding   
a bus. A clatter of jackhammers.
Granular light. A film of sweat for primer   
and the heat for a coat of paint.
A man and a woman on a bench:   
she tells him he must be psychic,
for how else could he sense, even before she knew,   
that she’d need to call it off? A bicyclist   
fumes by with a coach’s whistle clamped   
hard between his teeth, shrilling like a teakettle   
on the boil. I never meant, she says.   
But I thought, he replies. Two cabs almost   
collide; someone yells fuck in Farsi.   
I’m sorry, she says. The comforts   
of loneliness fall in like a bad platoon.   
The sky blurs—there’s a storm coming   
up or down. A lank cat slinks liquidly   
around a corner. How familiar
it feels to feel strange, hollower
than a bassoon. A rill of chill air
in the leaves. A car alarm. Hail.

William Matthews, “Morningside Heights, July” from After All: Last Poems. Copyright © 1998 by William Matthews. Reprinted with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved,

Source: After All: Last Poems (1998)

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Poet William Matthews 1942–1997

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Summer, Separation & Divorce, Men & Women, Weather, Living, Relationships, Nature

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 Summer, Separation & Divorce, Men & Women, Weather, Living, Relationships, Nature

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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