Three Out of Five Ain’t Bad

by Matthew Gilbert


Don’t go to the dead
to study life when Tuesday nights
the trade school pulls scarred shop tables
into a circle and cheap wine flows
while a farmer models nude.

He shucks off a robe, tanned
parts coming up roses;
all you need to be naked
in public is thick skin and none
is thicker, though the best anatomy

teaches by absence:
Each artist learns by looking
him up and down that a good farmer
often loses a finger or two,
a bad one a hand. Silence

is an acquired taste, like a still life.
If anyone asks, he says the first time
there was blood everywhere
mixing with mountain ash berries, but
the finger was white as a tooth

when placed in his pack of smokes.
The second, he tried to stop
the harvester’s rotors from
hula-hooping on a boy’s hip.
It sounds bad, but truth is

he’s seen worse chopping onions
after a couple beers.
We’re pressured to have epiphanies
but never hold on to them,
toss each cold, crumpled

charcoal sketch into the trash
once its lesson has been learned,
knowing that next time
will be better,
all this room still left for error.

Matthew Gilbert’s work has appeared in Narrative Magazine, PANKSugar House Review, Redivider, and elsewhere. They live in Connecticut, and measure the general success of life by the ratio of trees to people wherever they happen to be.