Matthew Burns

Two Poems – Matthew Burns

“We Were Not Warned Not to Laugh”

“We were not warned not to laugh.”
—Desiree Fairooz

My breath, an exhale,
might have, I admit,
sounded something like
a chortle;
but it was more like
the sound you make
when asleep—
but I was not asleep—
and trying to shoo off
some dreamed bear
or other great threat.

I did it again just the other night:
it was a claustrophobic hallway
and something I feared,
I knew,
was near and threatening
and I could not find my voice
to say no or go away,
and in that anxiety my heart woke me
in the middle of a breath
moving beyond my body,
involuntary, an animal response,
no, reaction.

Thought was a lost ghost.
I just breathed out. I heard myself
sigh into the wide night.

No one said I could not; no one was even there.


The Brutality of the Wind

It is midday, and we are
still freezing.
Ash-white shrub
and slumbering tree;
blown snow keeps coating

The wind is another blade
or animal lashing out
in hate. This is not new.
We have felt this
and hated it then, before,
and then before again.

We suffer a little and shake
and dismay.
My room is warm.
Above: the pale
and ashen coin of the sun.
We say If it weren’t for the wind.

We say brutal and curl
into our bodies. And the snow,
blowing, coats everything.


Matthew Burns is the author of Imagine the Glacier (Finishing Line Press, 2021). His poems have appeared in Posit, RHINO, Upstreet, Camas, North American Review, and others. He teaches writing and literature in upstate New York.