Clay Matthews



I enter as a homemade version of Michael J. Fox in that movie
Teen Wolf. My father's letter jacket hung on my shoulders

like a cover bunched around the outline of a body
that isn't even there. There were pictures and there were hugs

and then there was Halloween, which as you can see came
to exist in the expletive. We were dolled up and thirteen.

When I say we I mean I. We were something then.
But if we are the collective image of our fathers and mothers,

who and how should we call the wolf? For clarification I'll take
the horses out back as the canvas of personal ideology. My mother

as she fed them sugar cubes and jalapeño chips, which made
the little one get frisky and buck. My father, who knew

exactly where to hit them with the end of a rope, on top of the head
right between the ears—and he could make them do anything,

I think. I think even make them walk a tight wire or dive
into a tank of water like in that other movie with the girl

who went blind, something about wild hearts and the word
broken. We built them a bridge once, my parents.

Over an empty irrigation ditch, small enough to step over,
and fixed them a picnic on the other side. And so the bridge

was worthless and the food was terrible (I forever left shells
in the eggs) but we were envisioning metaphor as something

tangible, as two fence posts and some rotting wood we found
on the other side of the barn. But now here I am again,

a werewolf. Correction—a teen wolf. I've pasted more hair on my arms
then I ever dreamed of (which is something boys dream of,

black hair on the arms) and with the right force
I can swing my hands and turn them into a claw, and howl

and jump from the top of the chain link fence to the ground
as if it were completely natural. I'm not hiding behind this mask

anymore, but maybe still hiding somewhere in this memory.
There was a Polaroid camera. There was my father eating ham

in the background. Me in my costume on the far right side,
two small eyes staring out from two latex holes,

and I swear on the life of my mother they were red.



The chicken-fried steak served with gravy in an iron skillet,
the three-thousand pocket knifes, the American flag everywhere,
even where you'd least expect it, like on the hand dryer in the bathroom
or the panty line of some old gal in leather chaps bending over
to pick up her cigarette. Dirty mirrors and one clean one. The red vinyl
booths, the waitress's name tag, the gold teeth, the missing teeth,
the impostor rattlesnake boots. Doo rags and don't rags. Fading blue
hearts on every other forearm. One-hundred and one mesh caps
with one-hundred and one clever lines about wives or trucks
or getting drunk and not knowing the difference. The smell of bleach,
the smell of eggs. Low ceilings and fluorescent lights. The musky
odor at the counter, the peppermint patties and broken toothpick
dispenser. The end of the world. The start of a new life. The lady
with her boy under her arm on the pay phone and crying
while something in the window makes her flinch. Motor oil.
Various chrome gadgets for semis. Bumper stickers. Leather vests.
A black plastic ashtray for some trucker in red suspenders,
a hot meal and cup of coffee for every last thing crawling home.


For "Werewolves":

A portrait of the wolf as a young man [here]

For "Exit 240B":

If you can't get away to a truck stop anytime soon, I suggest [this recipe]
for chicken-fried steaks with gravy.