The Cloister

By William Matthews 1942–1997 William Matthews
The last light of a July evening drained
into the streets below: My love and I had hard   
things to say and hear, and we sat over   
wine, faltering, picking our words carefully.

The afternoon before I had lain across   
my bed and my cat leapt up to lie   
alongside me, purring and slowly   
growing dozy. By this ritual I could

clear some clutter from my baroque brain.
And into that brief vacancy the image
of a horse cantered, coming straight to me,   
and I knew it brought hard talk and hurt

and fear. How did we do? A medium job,   
which is well above average. But because   
she had opened her heart to me as far   
as she did, I saw her fierce privacy,

like a gnarled, luxuriant tree all hung   
with disappointments, and I knew   
that to love her I must love the tree   
and the nothing it cares for me.

William Matthews, “The Cloister” 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 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1998)

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Poet William Matthews 1942–1997

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Marriage & Companionship, Relationships, Living, Disappointment & Failure, Love, Realistic & Complicated

Holidays Valentine's Day

 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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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Marriage & Companionship, Relationships, Living, Disappointment & Failure, Love, Realistic & Complicated

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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