Poetry: Selections from Matthew Freeman

My Very Necessary Figment

I'm dead. I thought that I should tell you that up front.

It's the only reason it's okay for me to write this.

And I've been thinking about the word “Beat” for quite a while.

It's just that my thoughts and memories are scrambled

and a lot of what I know came out of having endured psychosis.

I grew up reading Ginsberg and Kerouac and as

a lapsed disturbed Lutheran I loved how they linked

“Beat” with “Beatitude”. That's what it's all about. And later

at NYU they made us writers take an acting class

and the teacher was always talking about beats. I wasn't

quite conscious back then but some part of me was listening.

I got kicked out of there anyway.

Now, I have been thoroughly beaten down but we can dispense

with all of that. I've covered that ad nauseam.

I'm thinking about the clear vision I had

when I was rolling around on the carpet in the day room

on the psych ward and I saw this psychedelic hippie

with these laughably huge boots coming towards me

like he was going to step on me

and conflate every version of the word at once

and I thought maybe the Beats were a horrible society

who sat around silent in smoky rooms

and tapped their feet at each other when they wanted to hook up.

Imagine that! But later a woman came up

from a different ward and sat in the luxorious chair next to mine

after I'd cooled out and I tried tapping my foot a couple of times

but each time she tapped hers harder

and I realized the message was I needed to be perfectly still.

We hadn't spoken but I said thanks when she got up to go.

“For what,” she said. It was like in the observation room this guy

would raise his arms and each time I'd raise mine higher.

I remember we had a devout older man who would come near

and clap his hands loudly in order to perform a dispossession.


I was brought temporarily back to sanity by some miracle

and no longer believed that I owned the hospital

and as we were outside smoking the new young therapist walked by

and when she got close to me she coughed

so I said let's talk and I said,

“I've learned the tools of analysis, and I learned them on my own.”

“That's so sad,” she said, eyes so bright and shining.

Then we set up a time to meet but as is always the way

I was discharged

before it came up.

His Grand Return

What's going to happen is

when Greyhound fingerprints

the empty Diet Pepsi bottle I left

on the bus for no other reason

than just to be an asshole

because I felt like it

they're going to send their henchmen after me

and I'm finally

going to die a noble and heroic death.

One might wonder

what a loaf of bread looks like

after having been flooded

out of one's apartment for six weeks

and come back to the typical blocking device

between one and one's perception

and one's perception is all messed up

and in desperate need

of a very specific type of drug.

You feel that this is why you feel they won't

let you back into your childhood church.

And they're letting all kinds of assholes in.

Even If

One time I did something rather intelligent

as I was getting a ride home

from a music show and poetry reading

from my dear friend Medina and her daughter

because while little Cassandra and I

were sitting in the car waiting on her mom

I remarked,

“Remember how I read a sonnet tonight?

I bet you didn't know that my sonnet

had a whole lot in common

with those beautiful drummers we saw.”

“Really?” Cassandra said.

“Yeah,” I went on, “we were all

operating on strict meters.”

So I've added that to this world.

But when you awaken

and everything becomes a poem

that's when you're in trouble.

Because somebody somewhere along the line

told you it wasn't possible.

I'm not doing anything at all, though, you think.

Then you need some structured activity, something

counters. We'll get you off your ass!

But I typed up and sent out ten poems,

you think. And for that matter

I'm not so certain my blood is even flowing anymore.

The talk continues and guilt abounds.

The laws of this world evidently apply to you

even if you think they don't.

You can't be a baby anymore and stop your meds

even if you feel like hiding out on the ward.

You should become a celebrated professor!

But how in the hell can something like that happen?

You can't say anything about how poems arrive, you don't

know anything about anybody's poem.


You've got your spleen and your Ativan.

Now these are called Spring things,

and they're no different

from the wine and the bread.

Although they could be flesh and blood,

depending on your denomination.

Who could've known you'd see

just a bit of hell again today

and then rally by the time it was time

to watch your stories. You were telling

your analyst how

you need to get delivered every day.

And then suddenly and loudly,

“My God! I just got that! 'Delivered'!

As in getting born! I wonder

why that took me so long...”

Possession is a type of language.

It's like being arrested,

one thing applying to something else.

It's like Being taken into custody.

Without all of this

capital would not exist and the psych wards

would empty out.

It's hard knowing

everything is the same.

I used to admire those souls

who put up such a grand resistance.

But now, by inexorable means, they

are not here to see a bit of ice fall from the gutter,

or a despot removed, or the gathering of the

wedding parties in Forest Park

getting ready for their beautiful photos.

Pure, Learning

It's fun to have learned so much

and to know who you are

once again

and to have almost completely

come out of the wretched horrific nonsense

and beaten that poor devil back to the point

where language got so totally clear

and your old friends recognized you

and you're acting as if

a war were still going on somewhere

and your blood is beginning to flow again

but believe you deserve peace

when peace used to be always someone else's

house, someone else's lawn, car, pool,

peace was another family's sobriety

and another family's sanity--

like the most beautiful piano concerto you've ever heard

coming through the open window in early summer

with your door closed tight

and you're sitting there trying to read Flaubert

and you're waiting on a voice you aren't sure will ever come

and no way, you don't love

every single person, and to be honest

you never even prayed for it,

and years later

you get this wonderful message

from someone who mercifully drops the “Friend” bomb

and you're meeting each other at Meshuggah Cafe

and you know that when you walk down Delmar

irony will still be waiting to torture you

but you'll call that “Purity.”

Matthew Freeman's seventh collection of poems, I Think I'd Rather Roar, is soon to be published by Cerasus Poetry. He holds an MFA from the University of Missouri-St Louis. 


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