Bubble Wrap and Packing Foam
Matt Sadler, Detroit
Third Prize, Poetry
And what did you do with yourself today? The sun
closes its empty eyelids, the unemployment line breaks for a meal,
the janitor jangles his giant ring of keys. Doesn’t it seem he could unlock
anything? Why doesn’t he go into the vault and come out wealthy?
Can he at least tell you what you’re trying to unlock? You watch
with disinterested attention as the skeleton of a culture is laid open
one careful fistful at a time. The hearth a scattering of broken ceramic,
the fired clay colored ground mustard seed and pomegranate.
And what do you learn about your life? Do you walk across the cold rail bridge
toward home, kicking stones through the vertiginous slats,
lit by the subtle grace of inspiration? Did you pay your respects?
Your insurance bills? Say yes to yourself even once?
At the whale museum, I pass through a giant rib they’ve made into a door,
into the soft plush of the gallery, unscathed
but digested in some important way.
Is it wonder or reverence that opens my heart and my wallet
and I’ll buy a sweatshirt and some postcards, please.
And if we are related to that first scaled dog that drug itself out of the sea,
that would explain our awkwardness and our grace, our eczema, our gills.
Someone found one off a coast somewhere, now chest pinned open,
studied and explained. But I want everything explained, all at once if possible.
Dissect the coffee shop and the wormy dirt, label each node of the brain,
walk along the terminal moraines of our existence and expertise.
Feeling unbeatable, I pop into the video store and buy the special edition extended play
double platinum directors cut. You go back to your office and dream of surgical heroism, of inventing a giant plug for the giant hole everyone’s talking about.
Then you get back to your work. What else can you do but participate?
And hope, when you come home and the mail comes, there’s a package
with your name on it? And don’t you wrap yourself up in a package every day
only to deliver yourself to your own doorstep at 6, or if you’re lucky,
someone else’s doorstep, of if you’re luckier,
your own with someone else inside who loves you? And don’t you tear yourself open
together each night, dig through your guts, both expecting, above all else,
to find something good in there?