Two Poems by Nyla Matuk

New Work


I’m composed but I’m after
an interruptible climb,
like a beetle scaling
the bathtub wall, or as a vampire,
sullen and a bit desperate.
Christmas bells ring outside,
antiphonal, seasonal, visual, aural—

I wish I had a view of the cannery on the Columbia River
where the fog of winter comes up
from the city, a dockside truant.
I wish I had a view of the Explorer of the Seas docked

in Portland, Maine, its thousand windows at dusk
like a body politic or a body electric,
a luxury liner that helps bury one’s personal responsibility.

The neon swan and the pirate ship are also ways of happening,
the tugboat and the little man in his sailor suit
eating cactus fruit at Islamorada.

The horizon held all hope above itself.
A bird jabbered.


A Style of Death

A war elephant is captured first in the wild, framed for combat.
Loud doubt is the sound of a wild animal trained for bombast.
Nevertheless, it becomes a small part of the ceremony.
What’s plumage in Carthage
is a rocky carapace of hataris.
Roar of toddlers,
their aromatic stomp heard for days at Tympanum’s Cost.
Their trunk-to-tail convoy, separated by a double jewelry of
Mughal diamonds and Palmyra half-leaf motifs, shimmers like
the world’s most feared mahout, that stopper of the world’s very spin.

Zigging east: hard return; zagging west: hard return;
Hannibal’s serge and gumption: slight return.

Harnessing a dragnet of sailcloth, a king-sized Eurosham
thrusts and parries with a tablecloth.
These animals invented boogie itself.

Kimono-folded skin,
gunmetal-veiled nun.

And forget these people,
dead metaphors and former
upper management, all:
Faux-belted panda.
Princely-shod frog.
Sumo-diapered hippo.
Velvet-stoled stoat.
Chamois-vested chameau,
in a dromedary brown.
Camel-lashed Tasmanian devil.
Flower-jumpered bumblebee.
Chenille-cravatted chameleon.

Strict sound of windy kite
correcting itself.
Master of none.
Scotch-tape gun’s shriek,
a chess strategy, shah-mat.

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Nyla Matuk

Nyla Matuk is the author of Sumptuary Laws (2012), nominated for the Gerald Lampert Award. New poems appear in the Carcanet Press New Poetries VI anthology (2015), Ladowich, and Prelude magazines.