Vigil (4) | Matt Longabucco | The Hypocrite Reader

Matt Longabucco

Vigil (4)


I wait.
Eat and drink of course.
The wind in the shaftway sounds
like someone revving a car
marooned on a patch of ice.
Or the wind’s not in the shaftway
but plays it,
all the shaftways on the block lined up
like the stops of an enormous flute or recorder.
I wait while others labor and lapse,
lapse and labor,
and if you imagine this a guilty state
or an unnatural one
you’d be right, though what isn’t.
A friend in recovery posts
she realizes with sadness she’s
been living for the day she’ll have
earned a casual drink.
I wait while large environments sicken.
Chris Kraus, quote, The present is
totally open, there isn’t a script,
everyone’s just making things up
as they happen, unquote.
Dead, hard carcass of a roach—
scarab of 6th street—journeys
around the stairwell and landings
a few days, comes to rest first
in front of one door then caught
up in the jute welcome mat of another—
didn’t know him. I’ve been home
a lot, waiting to write a poem
called “The Atmosphere
on Venus,” but can’t get past
the title, is it earnest in a way
that signifies (since I’m capable of
recognizing earnestness and everyone
knows this about me or should)
that I recognize it and, in doing
so, admit an irony that at the same
time both occludes and betrays
a small whiff of panic that we’ve
become those soulless, jaded types
who never think anymore
about the cosmos cranking above,
faithful bond of our insignificance
we pay by remembering to feel
overhead like a soft flamboyant
hat whose weight is noticed in gusts
or the unequal pressures of entryways
by its wearer. The Atmosphere
on Venus: with Venus for first
of all eros: moment, however
brief, sometimes an age, before the kiss
but after the kiss has been ordained.
Touch of lips to flesh that answers
by flushing heavy or wet.
Venus, who arrives—
I just heard a bottle in the
backyard area break and felt convinced
no person did it—to get things
moving for principled or shy types.
Both or all of whom keep one eye
on the goddess through the entire act:
wondering: will her beauty approve
if we’ve allowed ourselves a sip
of this pleasure that is, come on,
ostensibly available to us all the time
but of which we flaunt embodiment itself
by, in fact, at almost every moment
refusing to partake?
It’s as if we had a theory about it.
Venus, answer me!
Aren’t you moved, you fuck,
by disastrous circumstances
almost indistinguishable from good luck?
Deferral’s a magic unicorn palace
lined with black and white imitation
fur you’re allowed to run a half-
sucked green apple blowpop across.
It’s probably just a switch on a wall
but I like to imagine every time “they”
turn on the boiler it means a strapping
fellow in a white tanktop canters splay-
footed in yellow timberlands down
to an echoing cellar where he takes hold
of a great iron wheel sloppily spray-
painted red or better yet metallic silver
to with a strain and grunt break the friction
of its seal so that it begins to give
and turn till he can spin it with a whistle
while through pipes made of unalloyed lead
hot water begins to trickle then surge,
soon to become a jet of steam:
an atmosphere. The planet once
called “earth’s twin” was later found
to possess air so thick it crushes
every probe we send, a carbon
dioxide shroud whose temperature’s
800 degrees. They say it’s a warning,
projection of a future earth
where nothing we know can live.
The old radiator: metallic silver flaking
off of black rust: it really hisses now
and looks, on its four legs,
like a stately dog,
faithful as my fantasy life
and as loud. Who cares about
the atmosphere on Venus,
even if not caring lets it be.
What I care about is how I’m seen.
Venus, we let you down:
holding our breath.
Dispatch unfathomable lifeforms
in sparkleriffic dreadnaughts
across the sea of space to wipe us out,
element by element, to undo and demean
our music right to the pith of the notes.
Then leave, and leave every portal open—
our famished animals will want to come and go.


Illustration by Jon O'Neill