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Matt Mauch

Regarding the man who didn’t have on the face that would have allowed him to see

the red light he missed

 

 

I’ve forgotten the main thing I told myself to remember about him

because I didn’t put on the face

 

I use to write down what I’d otherwise forget

only a handful of seconds after the second

 

I walk through the door. Instead

 

I quickly put on the face I wear to lovingly feed the pets.

The pets had faces that said to me

 

eating right now is a very important thing. The tiny teenaged

neurons that rushed the stage in the process of changing faces

 

trampled the thing I was supposed to remember most

about the man at the light. This, then, will always be a story

 

wearing the face of the story only partially told,

which is a story with an ending

 

nobody likes. He who I call a man at the red light was less man than boy,

 

but he was trying very hard to earn his manhood, the earning of which would trigger

trying even harder to recapture what he’d given up to get it

 

is a lesson that’s impossible to teach

but easy enough to learn when your many, many faces

 

are featured in a museum exhibit. This state of not having the right face,

no matter the number of faces in your permanent collection,

 

for the task at hand, and somehow surviving it

 

is a story about the kind of tomorrows that happen

today due others who are wearing

 

faces you should think of as the faces of luck.

 

I’m trying to issue a general warning and also give a driving lesson.

 

Ten years ago I bought a spade, wearing my cycle of life face,

thinking that that summer was the summer

 

I’d have to bury the cat I’m petting now.

 

The boy/man who didn’t see the red light was dreaming of checkout girls in undergarments

in a face you’d close the door on if you accidentally barged in.

 

Luck was doled out by my hands at ten and two, by my quick feet at brake and clutch,

as if I wore a government-funded safety-net mask.

 

I say man with best wishes for a long if not happy life. I say man

because a fleet of cautious drivers guided me here,

 

to a Wednesday, a spring, bright sun coming at angles off windshields,

fragrant manure rising from fields

 

outside Mapleton, outside Alden, filtering through car vents,

settling on a shirt sleeve,

 

manure forever associated now not only with the lucky boy/man

 

but also with a woman

too heavy to retrieve her wind-blown mail

 

wearing the face I saw a dancer wear

in a dance done under the duress of having to get it right

 

or her love interest would be killed

in a film I can’t remember the title or premise of.

 

I passed at forty-five miles per hour, scattering envelopes in my wake.

This enshrined me as part of a benevolent collective hoping to spare the heavy woman

 

from bad news and false accusations

is the face I hope she saw.

 

I used the hand-held face I usually reserve for dramatic comebacks at sporting events

to look into the rear-view, to watch the woman

 

trying to catch things.

 

The things were trying desperately to escape. The woman couldn’t bend far enough,

not quickly enough to stop them.

 

She was wearing the face one wears when the body’s limitations

are accepted, after which one dies a kind of death.

 

To pet the impossibly alive cat, I try to wear the face the heavy woman wore

when after dying that kind of death her mail turned into chickens

 

who thought they were free.

She put her hands on her hips, her face to the horizon in envy.

 

Though I had driven too far away by then to see clearly

I’m betting she herself turned into the clouds

 

in the rearview, into the kind of whole sky face

I wear when I see my face

 

in your or anybody else’s eyes.

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