Matt Hart

Other Nightmares



“Giants have pitched their tents,”

wrote Samuel Taylor Coleridge

in the middle of his life in a letter descriptive


of mountain peaks, his trashed

imagination a convulsion of lamplight.


You can imagine what that must’ve looked like.

But the giants were in my head again last night,

and the air in my room was freezing, just thinking


about them, my baseball bat at an easy

arm’s length. So close to alarm’s length.


“Hey, you up there,” some kids had shouted at me

on my porch from the street a little earlier. And sort of

ominous, the way they walked up toward me


on a mission, but then just kept going

when they saw the dog straining against her leash.


I watched them disappear in the shadows only laughing.

I have no idea what the shadows ever mean—if, in fact,

shadows mean anything at all. Harm or otherwise.


The inside of my skull has always been

a wilderness place of “dead by dawn”


and other more sinister counterfactual scenarios.

And yet, more and more it’s the actual I imagine

finally, irrevocably doing us in, not giants


pitching tents or other nightmares.  Kids

on a mission, just messing with my head.

Wicked East of the Witch



Some legless black egg.

I am followed in the kitchen.

My minds attach to different things:

the fragments of love and coming to


in my dreams, the fire bluing next to me

and friends redefined so plaintively.

I am sitting again on your elephant


heart. The earth might be the end

of us. The earth will be the end

of me. The egg cracks up. I

almost lose faith. The color


of molasses and the pink in your cheeks

all night on some couch with an air

sort of worried. The air that I’m breathing


is so far away. What to make of these

feelings and all mad things? So long

and so distant, I am so far away.

The white white white white moonlight.

Plan A Plan B






made so much sense in the dark,

but now flies from me in the light

of your audience     Or now it trees

through me in the face of your

audience, your audaciousness

to thwart my best efforts to blueprint

this motion for forgiveness

of the whole human racket

So the governor and his devil

make a bet in several languages,

but possibly only implicitly

to gather intelligence, body odor,

North Korea     Doubting everything,

you can call me Blister, singing

the houses deliberately and windy,

someone two blocks away

spotted a wolf passing through me,

the backyards and fences     He was

on his way to Kentucky

from Canadian geese

My friend sent a picture

of your audience

working hard not to rile up

his acquaintance, as if the blue,

which is sky, or the anger or the beauty

or the weariness all through us

ever actually exists

A rainbow’s a real thing,

my daughter Agnes insists, but not

in the way it is really, so we remind her

in the first place she is six,

and in the second

not to ride her bike through the middle

of a story     She doesn’t

remember the conversations

about things both minuscule

and sorry, but she does in her sleep

dream the beginnings and endings

of fairies, which doesn’t mean

she still doesn’t want one

for her very own, its magic blowing

literally the windchimes, the wobbled

porch swing swinging low

And all across the city

holding hands and other things,

friends together swaying

more than ever      I want this

to end, or I want it to end never

The cynical people on their heads

without their hands can keep

their balance if they can, but no

they can’t     And I am all

a whiteness and a gelatin print

black dress upon a mannequin

in your windows,

though also I am hammered

to a blankness with a flower, a beer

or a horse or a desk in my throat

And meanwhile, the empty heart

of your audience has packed a blanket,

so gets it out, and all of us stay

warm when we visit North Korea

or Egypt or North-North

of Northness, and sometimes we have

a picnic or instead we find ourselves

at the awful dreamy house

where we meet ourselves, walking in

and walking out, both coming

and going in a shambles to the shambles

There’s a sloppiness upon us, as we blink

through comma’s coma and the whale

going out by the light of its own oil

Truly I love talking to you,

my self-inflicted punchbowl,

which I know sounds worse than I mean it

when you mean it     I know you

have a way about town, a waywardness

if anyone does    And this rescue attempt

is littered with stars, fragments

of goats and cooks in boats,

my fogged-out wheelbarrow

so warm and capable

it almost works even covered

in furs, wild earnest grasping

but I get a little nervous

Your audience applauds

as you slip through my fingers







has to be an entirely different creature.

When Dave called me out of the blue

and said, “Man, last night I had a dream

about you reading this poem called


Plan A Plan B,” I knew immediately

I had to write the poem and deploy it

in the world somewhere, because


Dave’s a prophet. But of course, I also knew,

even before I started, that I’d need a Plan B,

not just because of the poem’s title,

but because Plan A, which was to


simply sit down and bust the whole thing out,

would never work, and didn’t, since that’s only what

I always do—jump into the lifeboat and see


where it takes me, but this had to be something

else, and “your audience” kept bothering me,

and eventually you slipped through my fingers,

so that’s when I knew it was time to enact Plan B,


even though when I read Plan A to Jen

over the phone, she said, “I think that’s

my favorite appearance of Agnes


in one of your poems,” which made me

feel good, since Jen’s read a lot of my poems,


and is a tough critic—though, for what it’s worth,

the thing about Plan A that I was most


excited about was the appearance

of the wolf in my neighborhood,

which really happened a few weeks back.


One of our neighbors looked out

her kitchen window, and there he was,

so she took a picture with her phone

and out it went, all over Westwood.


I can only hope the wolf made it safely

to Kentucky, its bluegrass and bourbon,

where even in winter it’s warmer than it is


in Canada and probably also North Korea,

though I sort of hate how that rogue-ish state

wound up in Plan A. I didn’t plan that. I didn’t

intend that, nor did I really plan any of this,


which is one of my poetic problems.

I don’t write poems to articulate

some preconceived version of the world.


I write poems to figure out how I see

the world. Thus, making a plan is not

only a drag, it’s not very interesting.

And while, sadly, Plan A did end up being a failure


(as it never really took off the way I wanted),

Plan B thus far seems a struggling thing, too.

And yet, I wonder if somehow this is actually the poem


that I read in Dave’s dream? He seemed to think

there was really something to it, like I’d set

myself on fire with a red-tailed hawk

and the whole congregation sang


“The Old Rugged Cross,” or a donkey

wandered lonely through an airport late,

our lives crashing hard into mean, electric fences.


MATT HART is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Sermons and Lectures Both Blank and Relentless (Typecast Publishing, 2012) and Debacle Debacle (H_NGM_N Books, 2013). A co-founder and the editor-in-chief of Forklift, Ohio: A Journal of Poetry, Cooking & Light Industrial Safety, he lives in Cincinnati where he teaches at the Art Academy of Cincinnati and plays in the band TRAVEL.