The Catfish King

Poetry by Erica Matthews Δ Photography by Maro Kentrospike-001

early morning communion:


Grandma tilts

with an obelisk neck

tethered by taut, blue, running threads

over the liquid smog of her backyard

manmade pond.


A cacophony of little bubbles and metallic

flashes of living, slipping scales crescendo.

The lion pit under her wafer of moldy bread.

A milky glint smiles bright white

in the cataracts of her eyes.

Her face clowning, shown wide,

toward the cloud waves

who clap down at us

and laugh back.


More, now, the plebian crowd roars


And scatters.

He comes.


His proud camouflaged tail attempts

an inconspicuous flirt.

Tells her to wait; he wants us to pray.

We do.

We, eager children, we, crouched virgins,

at our first circus show.


The trees stop bristling and the shadow men

hide and whisper in every darkness.

The cloud waves touch their peaks

ready to crash

and he dives.


He flew higher than all of our kites —

just ask the Crabapples,

the Salamanders, the French Pussy Willow.


His great sucking mouth kissed

and held to her ageless touch.


Under a sky turned electric,

atop discarded bags of

stale, yeasting Eucharist,

We saw, from our grassy nave, in physical form,

the definition of faith.



Nights of the Summer Drought When the Dust Buried Thought

Pirouetting specks

abruptly halt

on the still liquid of onyx coffee

left out from the night before.


The alabaster porcelain softly claims:

1 DAD,

across its dusted side and will sit

until noon when

Mother knocks its silent perch


And curses her Husband’s forgetful ways

along with the stumped cigarette remains-

whose corpses deteriorate

in front of his favorite thinking spot.


(His derriere imprinted on the listing porch,

made less mortal by the wood rot

which struggles to hold the weight

of his nightly thoughts.


And the infinitesimal poofs which float in through the summer breeze

remind the Husband of fake snow on stage

from a play he saw years ago in Ames,

when he thought,

I’ve seen what it means to be dead-center

And surrounded

But still to fade.)


The Redwood Seed


Today I bought a Redwood seed

And will plant it in my parents’ field,

In the center,

When it is two years old.


And many years from now,

After the last human has died off,

And when some great, adventuring species


To this planet and perhaps questions my tree,


They will never know this tree

Was nursed and coddled to infancy.


This tree was ogled with tipsy curiosity

At dinner parties and saved many from

Awkward silence,

“Now, what could this little fellow be…?”


This tree sat silent as we sat silent,

Our little company radiating in the synthetic glow

From the TV who screamed of future wars and siege.

We couldn’t hear the leaves whispering behind

Our shaking heads.


They will never know

This tree endured so many years of dress-up.

The little plastic white twinkling lights

Wrapped up lithe and tight,

The family smiling, content and proud,


“See?  There’s still something to be happy about!”


This tree that swayed with the breeze

Of my trampling steps

And caught a whiff of salty and sour breath

From my mother’s drunk tears.

And felt the force and was also injured

By the bullet spray of our careless words,

The collateral damage of now pointless fights.


This tree witnessed

The cat catch the mice.



They will never know

And we will never know,

Though we will always suspect,

That the dog relieved himself on the tree’s base

At least a few times.

After those long day trips,

When we’d race home and, to our surprise,

Find no surprises from the Dog.

We’d look at the Dog, look to each other, look to the tree…

Then shake our heads and knock

Such a silly notion to the floor.


They will never know

That one day I stood with the tree

And saw myself reflected in its leaves

And knew it was time for both of us

To say Goodbye and start living life.


The tree heard the excited tone in our conversation

But could see and feel trepidation on our breath.

The ground felt cold and satisfyingly wet.

We hung around after the dirt had been pressed

And patted against the ground.

We whispered comforting and loving nothings

And talked big-talk about the future of our gentle beast.


I drove away

And watched the tree in my rearview mirror,

This simulacrum already giving hints about our future.


When they come and question this tree,

They will not know what it means to be rooted,

by nature, to an Aboriginal Memory

in a cracked terrarium-

And they will not see my hands

Which planted the seed.


Blushing Thursday


Blushing Thursday in the parking lot
Peeked through tinted windows

And could see

The genesis of the Big Bang:

The birth of some little universe formed
at the crossroads of
Synthetic-leathered backseat seams
and a rumpled heap of jean
casually resting at the feet.

One final rhythmic tug ignited the great explosion:
Viscous liquid stuff sprawling forward,
the born strength of forged and flying elements:
Hydrogen, Helium, Lithium, Beryllium,
each dwindled into protein,
each a million years old,
all hurried down to a sweaty, clenched hand.




The solitary participant relaxed into his sticky seat,
the dark matter of his mind faded and ceased.

While blushing Thursday contrasted dark with decay.





Poem #88


Crown Prince Rudolf had Poor Rich Boy Syndrome.


And, if the narcissist Mary Vetsera hadn’t been so impressionable

(Such a young romantic, only 17 years old)

Perhaps she wouldn’t have agreed to that suicide pact at Mayerling.

The brackish of new-age and old blood

Sealed together

The host of a continental flood

Which could only carry and birth a great skeleton, for

The fish rots from the head down.


Then if Karl Ludwig hadn’t pursed his chapping lips to sip

That fateful glass of contaminated water,

Quenching and flat

On the dried out badlands of Egypt and Palestine;

The strong man, the oak tree, never would have shook

And sweat with Typhoid Fever

And then cursed the jaunt of travel in his death.


So that ultimately -perhaps- Franz Ferdinand and Sophie

Wouldn’t have held the weight of a price so heavy

It was dealt with in a string of fate:


That magnificent Clotho took her time

With nimble fingers and fretted line

Of the brow

She wove the braided noose and cackled at

A plan laid loose

Hatched in the fevering mind

Of an assassination gone awry:


When the car pulled up he dropped his drink.

Gaurico Princip didn’t notice the pool of water in which he stepped

                        Or that shatter of glass from which it leapt

                        Or the trail of steps its liquid momentarily kept.

                        He walked to the vehicle.

The weight of a familiar metal pressed in hand,

                        A glint of black that rarely left the night-stand,

                        And a thought, ‘steady and fast’, his only demand.

                        He shot.


The final words of Archduke Ferdinand  

Matched those of Princip’s thoughts:

It is nothing, it is nothing, it is nothing…



So that…

(In the perfect world)

The Great War would have never been fought:

The young Kaiser Wilhelm II with his young Germanic Nation

Couldn’t have made the worst militaristic decision

Of crossing into Belgium

(In pursuit of the French)

To outrun the Russians

Which enticed the British into an attack of reparation.


The guilt and damage of the Second World War

Wouldn’t course through my blood.


My Great Grandmother and her Father never would’ve had that fight

Over some now broken-down and long-gone bike

Causing her to flee Germany to make some ridiculous, stubborn point.

Leaving the mountains of the Black Forest behind and

The small flowers which peppered her countryside.


She left the land but not the mindset

And my Grandmother cried while we looked through

Pictures of the Holocaust in some addition of Life.

Her limp, useless hand, struck dumb by Polio couldn’t

Wipe her face which stung and was tattooed for

The water dries but the salt will stay

The invisible insignia of past mistakes.


I wouldn’t be laying here abstract and stretched to fit

In this outgrown bed, the bottom of my pillow wet with sweat,

Watching a hummingbird buzz and flit in the growing dawn:



The morning breeze brought him in

Confused by the smell of our salty sweat

Mixed and coalesced

When you coxed apart and speared that part of me which only

Another can reach:

The scent of the intrepid.

His rhythmic pulse and the push of his little head

Against the stone ceiling

Match my own beat

And a well-known feeling:  a glacial heat

That swells in a mistake recognized.




Together we stay determined:

We’ll break through that looming ceiling


Always whispering:

It is nothing, it is nothing, and it is nothing.




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