Matthew J. Spireng

Killdeer after a Late Planting in Corn

She cries and cries, trying to lead me
away from the nest she can no longer find
the disk's destroyed, the tractor's run
over, her eggs or young turned under
as she feigned a hurt and cried to that roar
in vain to draw it away as if it were
a predator stalking its prey. At first I follow
because my goal's her way—the end
of the drive and the road to be walked—
but then as she flies in another direction
and lands, crying and crying, I turn
and follow just her, giving her hope,
false as it is, her birdwork is right
for this world.

(Originally published in The Cape Rock. Reprinted in Out of Body and in The Poets Guide to the Birds.)

Water-based Lubricant

It was only after I’d left the chain pharmacy
and was walking across the parking lot
that I sensed something was wrong. County
highway department workmen in an orange dump truck

looked at me strangely, and I realized, as
a cool wind of an early October day
whipped past me, that it felt airier than usual
where the zipper of my jeans should be closed.

I waited until I sat in the car and checked and,
sure enough, my fly had been open. My fly
had been open the whole time I had wandered
up and down the aisles of the pharmacy

unsuccessfully searching for water-based lubricant
the instructions for use of the rectal thermometer
I’d bought to check my sick dog’s temperature said
I should apply before each use. It had been open

at her eye level when I stopped to ask the young woman
kneeling on the floor stacking shelves where to find
water-based lubricant, and it had been open when,
minutes later, still unsuccessful, I had mumbled

as I passed a woman customer standing waiting
to speak to the pharmacist something about how it seemed
I could spend my life there looking for what I
needed, and it had been open when, finally breaking off

my search, I approached the woman clerk in the pharmacy
to ask where I could find water-based lubricant, and it had been
open when the woman pharmacist came out
from behind the counter to help, wandering with me

from aisle to aisle until finally she decided the only place
water-based lubricant might be is near the condoms, which was
where it was. And it had been open when the woman cashier
checked me out, perhaps in more ways than I realized,

which might be why she stammered when she asked if I’d found
everything I was looking for, a stammer I thought was
a speech impediment, but which might have been my fault,
exposed as I was, buying water-based lubricant for the dog.

(Originally published in Rattle.)

The Horse
(for Suzanne Cleary)

I cannot leave the image of the horse in the water,
the horse thrown overboard in the middle of the ocean
on a moonlit night, the horse following

the slow-moving ship, eyes fixed
on that only other object on the water. It did not
ask to come. It did not willingly leave

the field where it ran, its mane rising up in waves
with each step. It did not like the stinging
in its eyes. The taste of salt no longer

brought pleasure. Its nostrils flared and its body
grew heavier. Around it, long after the ship disappeared,
circles were reaching in every direction, one outside the other.

(Originally published in Tar River Poetry. Reprinted in What Focus Is.)

About the Author

Matthew J. Spireng is the author of What Focus Is (WordTech Communications, 2011) and Out of Body (Bluestem Press, 2004), winner of the 2004 Bluestem Poetry Award. He is also the author of five chapbooks: Clear Cut; Young Farmer; Encounters; Inspiration Point, winner of the 2000 Bright Hill Press Poetry Chapbook Competition; and Just This. Since 1990, more than 900 of his poems have appeared in publications across the United States including North American Review, Tar River Poetry, Rattle, Louisiana Literature, English Journal and Poet Lore. He has won five national poetry contests for individual poems and is an eight-time Pushcart Prize nominee.

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