Improvisation without Accompaniment

Matt Morton


Improvisation without Accompaniment

In the field, the tractor spins its giant wheels.

How fierce defiance is, or seems. Mechanical

in a sense: our pistons firing to set aflame

some teepee of longed-for brush, this being

hope’s kindling. Just once, I’d like to witness

beavers constructing a dam made of last spring’s

windfall, dead limbs crooked and bent. I’d like

a roan horse, a wide-open pasture to ride across.

Laughter. A bottle of cheap wine. These acres

of heartland filling up with snow and snow and—

for our next trick, what will be expected of us?

The chromosomes divide with such precision.

This is the part where the origin myths diverge.

Give me something gold to grapple with: three

apples to juggle, a scrap of paper to fold

into a dove. I have seen pigeons nesting atop

the steel beams in the station, as the trains arrive

and depart, come and go. All I want to do is sit

on the porch at evening, in a pinewood rocking

chair, and watch the desert sun melt over

the hills. But it is this notion of now that gives me

trouble. There is no parachute, and that is sad.


Matt Morton’s poetry appears in Crazyhorse, Gulf Coast, Harvard Review, Ninth Letter, and elsewhere. He has received the Sycamore Review Wabash Prize for Poetry, and scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. He serves as associate editor for 32 Poems and is a Robert B. Toulouse Doctoral Fellow in English at the University of North Texas.

BG National Poetry Month Banner