Ted Mathys

Storm Damage



After the west there will be the east.

After the east there will be the south.

After the south there will be a dog

pacing backward on a plain of dust

extracting a red string from a grackle’s

throat, to tie around the oath


I took to consult the auspices

prior to exercises in compass,

pessimist, deception, a limb cut

down by wind, detached on grass

reaches up, fleeced in ice, as if I’m

to shake its knobby hand and atone.




We argue about the volume of water

needed to put out our fire. Liters,

you say, dumping Nalgene


after Nalgene in slow cascades,

making split logs hiss, embers

punished out of the red


end of the spectrum, wetted

down to scales of char.

Then just to make sure


you go back for more, obliterate

smoke that is no more

evidence of flame, but of loitering


heat that must, too, go.

I want it the way we used to:

warmed by bourbon and Hershey’s


you’d crawl into the tent,

unlace your boots and wait

for me to piss a phrase on the pit,


written unwritten. Or we’d fill

the bear canister up to the lip

and in one emphatic whump


take the danger out

but let the pile smolder

overnight opposite stars,


occasional pop reminding us,

as we drifted off, what goes on

beyond the zippered door.


TED MATHYS is the author of three books of poetry, Null Set (2015), The Spoils (2009) and Forge (2005), all from Coffee House Press. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has received fellowships and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, and Poetry Society of America. He lives in Saint Louis, teaches at Saint Louis University, and co-curates the Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts Poetry Series.