Four Poems by Matt Pasca

In the Cemetery of Defense Mechanisms

Mine has the goliath mausoleum on the hill—
white marble, spruce-raked, in memoriam

of the syndicate that euthanized me just right,
saved me from his sick bitter, her infrequent

smothering—tribute to that geared vortex
of extraction, both swelling divine and familiar

like saying the word desk until you forget
what desk is. Reset. Safe and ready

for charm, despite girlfriend after
girlfriend taken, my wife even (it left

the Milky Way in her hands, majestic,
lifeless). Love, love, love, love, love,

love, love, love, love, love, love, what
even is love? Names filed, kissing

headstones, wreaths laid like you’re not
the one who offed them. My perfect

defense unhearted each tender clandestine
assassin, white blood cells fired

at only the best tissue. But she survived.
And I do not reset, do not admit

the demon voices, dissociative knives,
drills that made me droid—inert villain.

I can see the crypt from the street,
the flowered vault, vestibule for prayer,

but here in my wagon, I have collected
decades of knowing how to stay.

Matt Pasca reads “In the Cemetery of Defense Mechanisms”


I never hoped
to be perfect
in your frame—
no saint
draped in teal
and ash, gold leaf
sunning my orthodox
head, no Magi
or Madonna
cradling an answer
in austere prophetic
hands. Perfect
is a one-way
dead end
road and all
the haloed
icons hung
from steel
cables in all
the polished
museums of holy
hue are joyless
to a one, seven
centuries of not
a smile.

Matt Pasca reads “Pedestal”

Of Fish and Smoke

When I needed her to
catch me, my mother, too
was a child, in rust-
curtained rooms—her father’s
baritone knifing cricket
night, thumbs rank with
scaled fluke, breath of
gin, bowling shorts
spattered red. She took
cover below, a periscope
of girl made of Russian
novels and paintbrush, dreams
of tea-time with God.

My father’s baritone
blasted hearts into
powder, his yellow
cigarette hands, breath
a patina of grief.
I hid above, a drone
boy made of baseball
and books, dreams
of Senegal and Peru,
fishing boats and
ruins—the rag
in mother’s lap
about to fall.

Matt Pasca reads “Of Fish and Smoke”

On Being (Reminded)

I pace the yard, a copter
searchlight skimming the dark
city of my fear.

Daddy, can you play
soccer with us? You be
Argentina, we’ll be Germany.

Accosted by soles
slamming the path, bare
clamor shaking impatiens

and morning glories, their
cheeks ripe with questions—
Daddy, did you know

a marine clam can
live 400 years?
Their shirts

now inverted for German white.
Orange highway cones
frame the hostas.

Daddy, that’s your goal.
I slip off my shoes. Daddy,
why do squirrels eat birdseed?

Answers ding
like register bells—
especially this one:

be here,
in time’s smithereens,
where love happens.

Matt Pasca reads “On Being (Reminded)”

Matt Pasca.jpeg

Matt Pasca is a poet, teacher and traveler who believes in art’s ability to foster discovery, empathy and justice. His first book-length collection, A Thousand Doors (2011), was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and his second, Raven Wire (2016), was selected as a Finalist for the 2017 Eric Hoffer Book Award. Individual poems have appeared in dozens of journals and anthologies, including Taos Journal of International Poetry & Art, Naugatuck River Review, Oberon, Paterson Literary Review, English Journal, Weave, Georgetown Review, Wordpeace and The Pedestal Magazine. A 2003 New York State Teacher of Excellence, Matt teaches Poetry, Mythology and Literature, advises an award-winning literary-art magazine, The Writers’ Block, and runs a visiting writers program at his school on Long Island. Pasca also curates Second Saturdays @Cyrus, a vibrant poetry series, with his wife, author Terri Muuss, and performs his work, keynotes, and teaches workshops at cafés, libraries, colleges, conferences and continuing Ed. programs around the country.

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