Four-Way Lug Wrench
ISBN: 978-1-59948-840-0, ~80 pages, $14 (+ shipping)
Projected Release Date: January 2021
An Advance Sale Discount price of $8.50 (+ shipping) is available HERE prior to press time. This price is not available anywhere else or by check. The check price is $12.50/book (which includes shipping) and should be sent to: Main Street Rag, PO BOX 690100, Charlotte, NC 28227-7001.
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About The Author
Clay Matthews has published poetry in journals such as the Southern Review, diode, Kenyon Review, Gulf Coast, and elsewhere. His most recent book, Shore was published by Cooper Dillon Books in 2016. His other books are Superfecta (Ghost Road Press, 2008), RUNOFF (BlazeVox, 2009), and Pretty, Rooster (Cooper Dillon, 2010). He currently lives in Elizabethtown, KY and teaches at Elizabethtown Community & Technical College.
Four-Way Lug Wrench carries us down a dusty road in a rusty beater sprung through with daffodils. There where memory never settles, the driver grips the wheel with hands thick with garden dirt, engine oil, and chicken grease. Each poem – welded together – a song of strength. This gritty beautiful ride holds still all that is passed, for a moment, in a landscape all so familiar and strange at once. ~Jan LaPerle
October and peppermint
schnapps, the sound of baseball
on the radio. Sometimes the silence stops
everything for a moment: catcalls
and leaves rustling, the hum of tires
down the road’s curve, an old Buick
turning over, and Godammit all to hell
heard from a window. One year you stopped
listening to classic rock altogether.
The next year an old song became holy again
because you remembered: pain and dreams,
twenty-two and a ridiculous guitar solo
so right for being so long. I drive
a backroad and think of Williams’s
young housewife and the difference
between perversity and beauty; the leaves
break perfectly like so many
other dying things. It’s a long time now
you’ve spent not listening. Go on
and let it all break your heart again.
Hash-browns on the griddle, and two booths over
a woman writes something down on her napkin,
nodding, she is right about this one, she’s sure.
Outside in suspenders and hats and jeans tucked inside
boots they go around and thump the tires with the iron.
Today is not the day you fall down in front of everyone
on your knees and ask for forgiveness. I’ve seen a man
beg to be beaten—he thought he wanted it and because
he wanted it I would not give it to him. Racing papers,
coffee, the hands of a little girl all over the candy machine.
Return to me, she says. People pump gas, wash windows,
pop their hoods and check the oil and crows
make large passing shadows, ticking across the lot
as time ticks across the face of a clock, and yet that is not
right either, that is too easy, we have all come here to wait
for something to die and to eat. More silverware, please.
We’ve got forks and knives and so now we begin to cut.
This is what we call a stop. An exit. A big bright place
in the middle of nowhere, and they come rolling in
on eighteen wheels, and they come rolling in on the rims
of minivans, children crying, and they come rolling in
in big Impalas blaring music and they have rolled in
to stretch, refill the tank, buy a cheap rose at the counter
for some woman, a lighter for some man, we are here
looking inside the glass coolers, wiping the fog away,
thirsty and hungry and tired and long—not there yet,
but getting there, not gone yet but not quite here.
Poem in Which I Sort of Break Down
Another spring rain about which I have nothing
new to say, only yes and thank you and sadness;
I get in the car to drive around and let the dust
of another week wash away, and play The Temptations
“I Wish It Would Rain”—both because of the temptation
and the rain, the what might have been, what I perhaps
wanted to be, what couldn’t be. We never stop losing.
But it is green and wet and the world has opened up
and while the world is doing this I am going inside
myself, driving down old blocks I haven’t been through
in years or perhaps have never been through—I don’t
remember anymore, I don’t remember so many things
Dear God, it’s me, am I going senile at such a young age.
And Dear God, it’s me again, what are we supposed to be
doing what is sexual what spiritual why women and men
why why and why not something else. So I listen to the song
and I listen again and drive, looking at each house, slowly,
wondering who lives there, what they fight about, what
they make love about, which small movements, which
glances, which propositions accepted properly in the early
afternoon of a rainy day. The houses turn to smaller versions
of themselves, and then wooden versions of their brick selves,
and I as the Big Bad Wolf go backwards into the poorer part
of town, but I don’t want to blow them in and I may or may not
want Little Red Riding Hood, sashaying her way over
the sidewalk between home and the hollers of a thousand
of us men who lack either self-confidence or self-control
or a proper definition of the self as properly defined by postmodern
theory and/or theology. So I pass through the houses
and on and into a graveyard, graveyards being places I usually
stay away from I am slightly superstitious and have no definite
knowledge or faith one way or another on ghosts, but I go,
and I look, and it is green and gray and the many flowers
have closed or are closing themselves at this very minute,
while on a chain-link fence near the edge I read a sign that says:
Flower thieves will be prosecuted. Then we will all be prosecuted.
And none of us should be, either (and all of us, too). I have no
good reason, today, to be happy or sad, so I am both at once
for which I have many reasons. Sunshine, blue skies, please
go away. The wet, wet world. I see mall breaks in the clouds
and small rays shining down but no rainbows
because at this point a rainbow would just be too much.
Only pieces of light and the promise of more light
on the other side and the gray clouds so full of themselves
they could be any of us they could be me, the sound of rain
but no thunder, the sound of music but no voices, the sound
of the right person in the wrong place, the wrong moment
in the right life, and I know to you it might sound strange,
but I’ve nothing else to rely on (Dear God it’s me).
I wonder sometimes if steering wheels are just there
to mock us. And I feel terrible about the whole argument between
free will and destiny. All that I want is everything I want.
Music and rain and slight variations between the two.