Matthias Regan is the author of numerous poetry chapbooks, including The Most of It, CodebookCode, Oil Slick Rainbows, and CHVMS. A full-length collection, Gapers' Delay: Harmolodic Essays, is forthcoming from Virtual Artist's Collective. Another chapbook, Death Blossoms, was recently a runner-up for Omnidawn's annual chapbook prize. He is the editor of The Philosophy Workers: Carl Sandburg's Writings in the International Socialist Review, published by Charles H. Kerr press, and his essays on poetry and culture have appeared in The Journal of Aesthetics and Politics and Deep Routes: The Midwest in All Directions.His poems have appeared in a wide range of journals, including Verdure, Fence and The Partisan Review. He holds an M.A. in poetry from Boston University and a Ph.D. in literature from the University of Chicago, and currently teaches at North Central College. He lives in Chicago, where he runs the Next Objectivists Poetry Workshop.
They were a woolen family of rollicking accusers
whose uptight stance as regards the law
was confused by constantly desiring amusement.
Each day after dinner they would take a walk
through the neighborhood, wearing tweed suits
&crossing at the cross-walks, adults first
with the children close behind. We received
their complaints politely, & when we received
a summons for making too much noise
we deceived ourselves into believing we were
in the wrong. In court, we pleaded guilty
&ever after tried to be more law-abiding.
They were a fast-paced family of wry expressions
that crossed my face each time I tried to laugh—
byzantine rainbows formed by toxic emissions.
My third eye was like a Foucault pendulum
from which depended lips & a chin that swung
their own way according to the gravity
of the situation. I wanted to know whose wishfulness
this was playing across my face. The wishfulness
that comes with guilt? Or lowered expectations?
Was it a clan of dour, repressed judgments?
Or a rapid-fire effort at complex agreements
that might be interpreted to engild or enhalo?
They were a tinkering family of noble Irishmen
whose present-day poverty was mostly ignored
by remembering an estate near Enniskillen.
A summer evening found them on tuffets
of trash they erected in empty parking lots
between the gas rings & the canal, smoking
pipes& opining with what they took to be noblesse
oblige on the day's news. But whatever noblesse
they possessed was lost on neighboring tinkers
who laughed at their highfalutin mannerisms
&flashed their daughters, dropping trow
to belittle an imagined inheritance.
They were a long-lived family of deep-sea octopi
who lingered in trenches, feasting on sea-mice
limp eels & coral that would never ossify.
Among the lower denizens they were Little League
but among top-feeders that drifted down
they were Terrifying Creatures of the Deep.
One day, a Frightful Creature (a diving suit
that had fallen off a ship) fell like a divine suite
among the cards they were prepared to play.
Our knowledge of these creatures might have been
enhanced by photographs the suit's camera
flashed, but alas: the octopi were orthochromatic.
They were an impish family of lonely undergraduates
who rented a house on the edge of campus
where decisions were consensual & unanimous.
Such accord was seldom instantaneous.
They discussed minor issues at length.
They made charts & graphs to alleviate
their stress. To others, they were lonely hearts—
not worth the time. But lonely hearts
are often open, & the multiple pleasures
of their communal experiments were adequate
for a time. Eventually boredom set in
&they disbanded, debt-free & unbranded.
They were a dwindling family of long-haired yetis
whose clan had been cast out long before man
on account of being a version of our Yippies.
They lived on grubs & pulled pranks
on the Dems, throwing snowballs at conventions
&shitting in their stews. High in the mountains
they delighted in feeling free & light-headed
but as yetis know, its hard to be light-headed
in the mountains, especially when you're high.
One by one, they fell to their deaths. Each time
the family mourned. But they were free
enough to consign themselves to yesterdays.
The untitled poems below are from an unpublished chapbook, "Family Poems," which has one poem for each letter of the alphabet. The poems are composed according to a complex set of Oulipian techniques, which basically mean the the capitalized word in the first line, taken randomly from the dictionary, determines a number of subsequent words.