The Poems of Steve Matanle

The Poems
The poems in this collection are from a series I wrote in a black notebook while sitting on the small porch outside my house every night at around 3 a.m., regardless of the weather, from mid-September to mid-December, and, less frequently, from the end of December until early spring. The poems are improvisations, written without forethought, and edited only slightly. -SM

HART1023 copy

The Selection
We wish it were possible to devote more space to the wonderful poetry of Steve Matanle, but with limitations there was a difficult selection process in consultation with Steve. The source of these poems is his book, nightbook, published by Passager Books in 2011. If you’re as moved as we were, copies are available from the press as well as the online bookstores. -BH

In the soft rain
I witness the descent
of angels,
climbing down
the secret ladders
of the night,
their haloes
like dampened fires.
Have they come
in answer
to the prayers
of my body,
the blue vein
arching in my wrist?

The raveled skeins
of roots
in the dark ground,
the stars
like flecks of gilt
and tinsel.
What does the night
want of me?
I light a match and
the wind
blows it out.
I pray my heart
does not fail.
All I want is to see
on a bedroom wall.
The pine trees
lean into the night.

The stars wandering
through the night
like the distant lanterns
of a search party,
a solemn
meandering procession
of echoing cries,
The lost child’s name
like a word
no one knows how
to say without feeling
it is hallowed, and

These riffs
the stars are playing tonight
seem to be saying
bring your own tears.
I could swear it
is the graceful sound
of Lester Young
playing something lovely
for eternity,
a few notes. That’s all
it takes to make me
heartsick and happy,
sitting here in the night
trying to imagine
what it’s like to be gone.
Who knows anything
about it? Maybe
the angels. After all,
aren’t they nodding
behind each note
in gladness and despair?

The rain, the grave
insistence of it,
like the leaden ring of a bell
canceling the visits
of angels.
Everything has the mute look
of disuse,
like an abandoned factory,
or a motel
where the vacancy sign
is an understatement.

I love the angels
when they are not
wearing wings
and are mistaken
for sleepwalkers.
I love listening
to the stars
telling me to forget
everything I know
about them
and just let the light
go through me.
I love the way the trees
stand around
as if waiting for
to ask them to dance.
I love the possibility
of a star falling
I happen to be looking,
the ecstasy
of seeing accidentally.
I love my ignorance
of constellations,
my inability
to see the imaginary lines
between the stars,
only distances,
immense and lonely.

Sitting on the
porch at 4 a.m.
I tell the stars,
remember me
when I am gone.
My heart like
an empty vase
that once
contained roses.

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