Aubade by C.J. Matthews

Under the darkened sliver of dawn’s sleek seam
Morning possums, awakening, but not awake
Poised on the high cliffs of daybreak, motionless
In an imminence that longs for light.
Now my thoughts flare in a tarantella of fireweed worries
Then settle heavy into the lonely proposition of night’s edgy allure.

Under the lingering sickle of a wandering moon
When 4am’s chameleon reversals orphan distractions
When stiff winds spread songs sung into the flat face of an aged night
When all year long, I am fluent in the bald language of winter
Its terrible pleasure grows stronger, sadder since you were lost.
Rushed away, you now voyage starlight alone.
I worry you are burdened by my smoldering grief.
Do you remember the way your death set fire to our maps?
Now I carry only rocks in my disappointing guts
Leaving no trail of crumbs
Only a hard comma grimace bedraggling my aging face
A face you may no longer recognize.

Sometimes your voice comes, imagined:
Hey sweetie sweetie hey
And then I quicken my song to you
Eager to apologize
The ground note of my milled sorrow: regret
I promised you bravery in your absence
Yet the slow, ascending syllable of my sorrow
Disturbs your peace, I suspect
My displaced love lugging its shadow of sadness still
Into the dark, drape-drawn room.

Shelled like a tortoise was your goodbye
Your leave-taking, even to the last, oblique
Yet my love for you refuses easy dispersal.
Your grave is, to you, a small unfocused blur–
An anaesthetic link to sight, to sound.
To me, your grave is the call for all extinction
Its reality having travelled the map of my soundless dark
Never arriving at my not-quite-nearly-half-drunk heart.

I was inspired to write “Aubade” by reading a set of aubades the poet Michael Morse shared with me in Iowa City, including “Aubade” by Linda Hull, “Waking, 2:34” by David Wojahn, “Appalachian Aubade” by Traci Brimhall, “Aubade” by Catherine Barnett, “Aubade” by Terese Svoboda, “Aubade in Autumn” by Peter Everwine, “Leave-Taking” by Louis Bogan, “Aubade” by Devin Johnson, and “Aubade” by Philip Larkin. The aubade is a poem born in the wee hours of the morning that features a quiet farewell to a lover or loved one. A special form of poetry, the aubade strikes me as complex and meditative, lonely and longing, in a loving sort of way.

C.J. Matthews (not pictured), a teacher of writing and a facilitator of writing groups for nearly two decades, earned her B.A. at Cornell College and her Master’s at the University of Iowa. She adores reading, writing, traveling, live music, elegant food, bold red wine, and her two little dogs, Hercules and Hucklebee. Sometimes, like Emerson, she is glad to the brink of fear. Mostly, like the rest of us, she’s simply grateful to be alive. C.J. is a managing editor at 3Elements Review and her poetry will appear in the October 2013 issue of Spoilage Magazine.

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