Navigated: a collection of poems

by Matthew Argame

In the City

Manhattan gutted my insides

Threw me on the unkept sidewalks at midnight

 

Just as the moonshine ricocheted off unwashed windows

Of rundown prewar townhomes

And scuffed cars

And pools of undrained sewage.

 

The steady and distant light peered through these darkened cityscapes

But the pure shimmer dared not touch my hollowed heart

 

For this cavity would take in and make dirty the light

Just as the sun would show me shame

In the city my body is

No longer mine.

 

Over the Canyon 

Wind whizzes through the canyon and whispers in my ear

Come over

Frosted skies fall forcefully onto rocky slopes frisking me

Come closer

Pine leaves rattle, sandstone and shale shuffles, mouths chatter

Chatter

Chatter

The breeze bows beneath my heavy breath.

The snow slows to see my sorrowful sigh.

Sound seizes

Boundaries blur

My gaze is in freefall

My body

Over

Your arms—Catch.

Wind whizzes

Frosted skies fall

Pine leaves rattle

Sandstone and shale shuffles

Mouths chatter

Chatter

Chatter

 

Out the Confessional

 This face shatters in your presence

Trembles at the pull toward you

Knowing I shouldn’t want your lips

Before your beloved sacred scripts

 

This face shatters in your presence

As you pray for purity and peace

Helpless before your voice

I find solace—and shame—in my religious poise

 

This face shatters in your presence

Your face shatters in my presence—

I fall before your bare knees

You take me in like holy scripture

Our broken pieces mix on sacred fixtures

 

The devil dances on our chest tonight

Swaying to the sinus rhythm of sin

 

Through the Bone 

This may have been troubling to them

That I was not worried

That I was unmoved

That in fact I was hoping

For some physical pain

 

But when you sit with demons for too long

When you wake up sensing your soul has left you—again

 

When polychromic landscapes fall grey

And gardens smell like decay

And gentle lullabies sound like nails on chalkboard—

When you’re here too long, you know,

In your own psychological thriller

Playing in the cinema of your mind

You start wanting people to pinch you,

To saw you, perhaps

 

So, here’s my chance

Describe the procedure to me again, doc

 

He’s going to break my face

In four places specifically

He’s going to stretch my fleshy lower lip under my chin

My rubbery upper lip over my nose

 

Saw through my mandible

zzzzz zzzzz zzzzz

Saw through my maxilla

zzzzz zzzzz zzzzz

Saw through my thick chin

z-zzzhp z-zzzhp z-zzzhp

Shake the bone around a bit to help it split

chkkk chkk chkkk

Drill each piece in its new place

zmm zmm, zmm zmm, zmm zmm, zmm zmm

 

The anesthesia is wearing off…

There is STOMPING on my face

There is POUNDING in my mouth

There is blood

dripping

from both corners of my lips

I grope for air through my wired-shut jaw

I fight for air through my mucus-filled nose

Blood crumbs and snot crumbs fall as I cry for air

 

Despite this

for the first time—

I

Can

Finally

Breathe.

Demons

gone

Gardens

green

Lullabies

gentle—

 

Hm hm hmmm hm hm

I hum happily beneath my imprisoned lips

 

Beneath the Earth  

There was so much power in your prayers

 

You’d lock your eyes shut

You’d inhale deeply as if through the earth

You’d summon a chill around my neck

 

Soon your powerful prayers

Turned into perpetual whispers

As you bowed your head deeply

And rocked back and forth in your creaking chair

 

The softer the whispers

The closer we’d move

To take in your words

Your breath

Your wisdom

 

Later your whispers turned into

Cries and moans and groans

That made the grownups cry too

 

Eventually not a sound out of you

Only the rumbling from the oxygen device

And the occasional buzz from the blood pressure cuff

 

Crickets and distant passing cars bring me to rest

I am sleeping by you tonight

In the gentlest night we’ve seen in a while

 

Then a long heavy gurgle

A low, low gurgle—

Summons me from my rest

 

It’s 4:13AM I move daydream-like towards you

I see your eyes closed firmly shut

And jaw hanging open

As if you are about to deliver

Your final prayer

Matthew Argame is currently a graduate student at Columbia University, pursuing a Master of Science in Narrative Medicine. He completed his undergraduate degree at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), where he founded TEDxCSULB, conducted scientific research through the NIH BUILD program, and was honored by the JED Foundation as the Student Voice of Mental Health for his activism and work throughout the university. Upon graduation from Columbia, Matthew will continue on to medical school where he hopes to become a physician providing holistic care to his patients and will continue his craft of writing poetry.