You Got To

Sometimes all you have to do is ask. What’s up?
How’s single motherhood in a pandemic going for you?

Then you’ll see: The face lights up because a face always needs to light up.
That’s your job: to light up someone else’s face.

To watch the blue and pink light come out of their cheeks.
To watch their eyes get big and then all that green or brown stuff comes out

and projects onto your face, or, onto the wall, or, onto the kids sitting in the park
too tired to skateboard anymore so they’re drinking Mountain Dew

and you know you’ve done a little bit to save humanity
from total collapse.

That’s what your job is: to save humanity from total collapse by asking:
I hear you dropped out of Harvard because the walls of Memorial Hall were closing in,

let me know what I can do.
That’s what this stupid poem is for, to say,

to implore beg ask beg hope that you say, 
Hey, I heard your friend died suddenly from a heart attack.

How is your heart? And I know it’s sad,
but watch the eyebrows and chin explode with light.

Like firework light, like movie set light, like the light of four hundred suns
pinpointed through a prism.

Because that’s all we got. I don’t care how much money you got.
How many boats or airplanes or homes on Nantucket with the fancy wrap around porches

you got.
If you got anything

your job is to make someone else’s face get big in incandescence,
then blow out the windows of your speeding car and then

the little red Corvette on the highway
whipping past you,

heading somewhere beautiful,
going faster than the speed of light.


Matthew Lippman’s collection Mesmerizingly Sadly Beautiful (2020) is published by Four Way Books. It was the recipient of the 2018 Levis Prize. His next collection, We Are All Sleeping With Our Sneakers On, will be published by Four Way Books in 2024.


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