Understanding


By Matthew Smart

It bothers me for some reason when a friend
likes one of my poems and distributes something I've written
like she's tossing money from the caboose
of a train that's not moving not
to say that I feel I am the engine she's coupled to
although my inertia is seldom in question but that
I imagine most people who find the scraps
of my words blowing in the rail yard
simply shrug and would have preferred a coupon
for a free oil change or a holiday ham
or some impersonal cliché advice
like be good to one another or never
eat yellow snow and not these poor
attempts at explaining things I don't understand
to people I don't understand and who
surely don't understand me no I would rather
these words were kept safe in the conductor’s locker
or shoveled straight into the boiler than scattered
like ash-gray doves of misunderstanding or a third-grade
science experiment where balloons bearing name cards
are let loose at recess and the entire class watches
them drift into dots then disappear and the rest
of the year is spent waiting for correspondence
from Acapulco or Sri Lanka but the only response
comes from down the road where somebody's balloon
got caught in a barbed wire fence
and the farmer who finds it doesn't understand
and drives into town to complain that he caught
some kid from this class trespassing and who’s going to pay
to replace his trampled crops
and the entire class sits silent
as the teacher tries to explain to the man then apologizes
and the kids each learn a valuable lesson
about consequence and are all thankful it wasn't
their balloon found that day


Matthew Smart lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where he works as an information technology analyst. His writing has appeared in Vestal Review, Cheap Pop, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Unbroken Journal, Smokelong Quarterly and elsewhere. He serves as Assistant Prose Poetry Editor at Pithead Chapel.

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