Poetry Friday – Sad Stories Told in Bars – William Matthews


Poetry Friday again.  This time I have for you a short rhyming poem that is masterful in rhythm and sound, yet seems light and playful.  Playful, that is, until the last line, when Matthews brings us up short.  Ver-ry interesting!


First I was born and it was tough on Mom.
Dad felt left out.  There’s much I can’t recall.
I seethed my way to speech and said a lot
of things: some were deemed cute.  I was so small
my likely chance was growth, and so I grew.
Long days in school I filled, like a spring creek,
with boredom.  Sex I discovered soon
enough, I now think.  Sweet misery!

There’s not enough room in a poem so curt
to get me out of adolescence, yet
I’m nearing fifty with a limp, and dread
the way the dead get stacked up like a cord
of wood.  Not much of a story, is it?
The life that matter’s not the one I’ve led.
                                 —-William Matthews

William Matthews
photo by Ted Rosenberg

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8 Responses to Poetry Friday – Sad Stories Told in Bars – William Matthews

  1. delzey says:

    so even without seeing matthews picture i began to hear the poem’s voice sounding like the actor sam elliot. i think that’s my one inspiration for the day, sam elliot should read and record poetry. great poem, thanks.

  2. laurasalas says:

    Love this! Haven’t seen it before–wow. Something about that limp gets me, and I do love that last line. Thank you for sharing this.

  3. Ruth says:

    Yep, that’s a sad story. Thanks for sharing this one!

  4. Julie Larios says:

    A sonnet, too! Gad, the man had such lovely technical control, yet didn’t get over-clever and didn’t abandon the emotional truth in favor of the formal aspects. So glad to see someone reading and sharing William Matthews’ poetry. A good reminder to go back and look at more of his work – thanks, Judy.

  5. Marjorie says:

    Seering honesty – it certainly makes you wince.

  6. Mary Lee says:

    Hmm…I happen to think that the life that matters MOST is the one I’ve lived. Even though I, too, have made it to 50 with (not a limp but) a bad back.

  7. I’m wincing a bit with Marjorie, and I didn”t realize it was a sonnet at first until I read Julie’s comment! “Masterful” is right; thanks for sharing.

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