Matthew Carey Salyer
The Electoral History of the Carey Family

Lord Rift, remember to our blue heaven, how
the sound of my grandfather's prime was a suite
            of pink mice in the elephant field
                        tobacco he worked, and echoes his step-
                                    mother tucked

under his wag tongue from An tlmIeach Mór. Meet
the Careys in a dollhouse diorama
            of unexplained death they've made my head
                        house: mouse-mother, mouse-father, ratkin to
                                    amuse, me.

In the house-head, my hand trimmed down their thimble
town to a crime scene for fam. Silence, its great
            custody. Move manmade miniature
                        us through whitewash autumn, 1960,
                                    when we could

not yet be faulted for what work does, for Jack
Kennedy said that we had 'the easiest
            city or else the best Democrats
                        in the damn state.' How's gone wrong? Rush, ratkin.
                                    This is just

experimental architecture for ghosts
two decades before I was born lost, host, full
            stop. So all year long I've been looking
                        for affordable housing in the blue,
                                    good districts

on an electoral map of the Tristate,
like trying to find cause for an accident
            in a lab where rats in mazes ran
                        hot then cold with some rare incurable
                                    disease. Please

do not touch the dollhouse ethnographic scene.
The Unclaimed Death of the Carey Family
            takes only the slightest disturbance
                        to be like the last hurrah, be like just
                                    fucking touch me.


New York City Placement Exam

Been done to death, Lord Spiritual, the holy
            'Hallelujah,' yeah? Thought its broken
                        bone of a chord stuck where I cache harsh
upbringing thoughts in the throat (hush), heave:
            haw by haw I oust out wit, rage. Ow. Opt not.
                        Hundredfold, the face-plant lambs
of the Northwest/South Bronx Region Catholic Schools
            would be grieving for want of a nail
in fresh-pressed, be 'bye, bish,' be 'said-you-said
            catch me outside.' We brat, we brute, worst rudi-    
                         ment. Boy, you schoolyard
            that flock and come correct at the punk hour,
when all we fight to want, our eyes our anthracite
            for the piece of work we are,
                        dints us where hearts fickle

the complex lives of animals. It's too late. Fly-
            catcher, next time pick more baroque instruments
                        than us. Ram I am I know but you
should wear the bell in this iteration. I'd die
            to lead you to sacrifice on our class trip
                        at Lincoln Center thinking
not even the beautiful days, not one
            of the bird's-eye views of the earth
shares the smooth curve of the aneurysm
            that killed my dad, only the Met's opera-house
                        ceiling, its great gilt
            meant to depict mad lives of the stars
at the explosive beginning of night    
            bent on the orchestra pit.
                        Cue incidental

music from an ensemble of john does for whom
            nothing ever prospered (and they know it). Said
                        nope, kids from around-the-way with rare
minds are just regular guys born with tails. I hoped
            I could cut mine off. Lords Spiritual,
                        the lesson I take away
from The Death of King Saul According to God
            (where everyone's damned like Horace Mann)
is that we can't all be royals, can we?
            The opera's first act depicts your wonderworking
                        in the brief, freaky
            lives of kingdoms, the portrayed country-
side a sweep of green sanction for ambition.
            Almost all of the boys from school
                        get into Fordham Prep

so we can perform most of the supporting roles
            as Lords Temporal and Lords Spiritual
                        of the Cross-Bronx Expressway. CUNY's
a good school. Fordham's Jesuit, our taste of was.
            Your forefinger of plot pulls like a dog.
                        I hawk the parallel graves
built for king-fathers from Row K, Seat 109.
            Fine dumb sons. O screw the grandeur. O what -
this is merit-based? Super. Cue my queue.
            Rex?. Rex?. next. His anointing was a roof of birds
                        flown off with the self-
            righteous aloofness of his suicide.
Saul would never have said that he asked to be king.
            My dad only went to college
                        to cry wolf one more time

in a basket of grass where lambs relive the birds'
            flight in the small throat of their shade. When you
                        walk out of the Southern District of New York
federal prosecutor's office
            a free man, maybe you will see the worth
                        of a good education.
like me, my dead dad've winked. That's one way to work
            for other people. Like children,
                        our bodies outgrow us.

You will have one hour to finish the exam,
            the prophet warns the king in the final act.
                        Question one. Do the yes-ma'ams moth me
after third period because I talk back smack?
            Fact. Matt is a capable student when he
                        chooses to answer. Question
two. What are The Berkshires and how do you do
            you? The little legislators
on the Yearbook Committee require
            an about-me blurb asap. Funny's okay
                        but look (no you look)
            keep it clean, upbeat. It's for your mother.
Fuckers, my mother got hit on by Michael Caine
            c. Get Carter, and my girl
                        says that would explain

a world but the dates. Ma doesn't faze. Three. Great question.
            I think the first time was when the School Council
                        demanded cans and contributions
for the down-and-out. Ha. Governor Cuomo
            visited our homeroom like a cardinal-
                        archbishop, lest we get notions
nothing's changed under the new management.
            But there's a permanent record
on everyone. Bronx Science won't take me
            (the Lords of Discipline said) because they've heard
                        'what he's really like'
            from some good people with fat white teeth.
You have ten minutes left for the exam (breathe).
            Super. Senator Schumer,
                        I am addressing

the optional essay portion of this exam
            to contributing listeners of WNYC,
                        shy Tourists of the Charitable,
polishing handout cans, counting demands, c/o yourself.
            I have been learning to talk about myself
                        by reading all of (what else?)
Richard Howard's poetic monologues.
            His "Agreement with Sir Charles Sedley,"
which ends with 'the very tone and timbre -
            somewhat louder - of a man,' is fucking tight
                        enough to make me
            think that he must be from here in The Bronx.
This justifies me in naming my essay
            after Sedley's "Baller's Oath"
                        like a solo lord.

This sounds realer than "What the Opera Means to Me,"
            and I still demonstrate organization,
                        correctness, and substance. I relate
Saul's recognition that God's abandoned him
            to the day when I'll get myself arrested
                        or become a janitor
like my third-period teacher says. It's kind
            of freeing, knowing your own name
describes a process of reaching conclusions
            like the demolition of the Tappan Zee Bridge
                        when the Mario
            Cuomo got built. See, Senator?
Abstentions are for WASPs. We crave attention
            like that rich boy I hit back
                        (I forget his name).

I'm not ashamed to tell you, though, that I've no thesis,
            only the outward form of an argument.
                        It's as middle-class as I can get.
I don't want 'more for my children.' I want children
            in folios full, in fresh-pressed with grip strength
                        like the goddamn Northwest/South Bronx
Region Catholic Schools. I know, Lords Charitable,
            I've lost the thread about my dad
and this is why Richard Howard was wrong
            to get me going like we're back in The Bronx.
                        Put your pencils down.
            The men I know are prone to disciplining
                        natural speech around strangers,
                                    especially you,

but you should have seen dad when the prosecutors
            cut him loose, sporting Charlie Croker's glasses
                        from The Italian Job. No - no talking.
Pass your exams forward. We will mail the results.
                        was always a cliff-hanger, never one
                                    to bring the house down.
                        He was only supposed he'd blow the bloody
                                    doors off with my life.


_ _

Notes: “An tImleach Mór”: Emlaghmore, on the Iveragh Peninsula, County Kerry, Ireland. “the very tone and timbre – somewhat louder – than a man”: Lines from Richard Howard’s “Agreement with Sir Charles Sedley,” first published in Poetry (January, 1956). A notorious seventeenth-century rake, Sedley’s “Baller’s Oath” celebrated his profligate life and contemporaries. Samuel Pepys reports the Lord Chief Justice as claiming that Sedley’s ilk caused “God’s judgment and anger [to] hang over us.”

Matt Salyer is a poet and a professor of English at West Point. He earned a PhD from the University of Connecticut, and resides in New York City. His first collection, Ravage & Snare, is forthcoming from Pen & Anvil.

>> Back to Issue 22, 2019

Published by Pen and Anvil Press


ISSN 2150-6795
Clarion Magazine © 1998-present by BU BookLab and Pen & Anvil Press