Just Like Hidden Panthers In The Hills

Poetry by Matt Prater
Issue 47 • January 2017 • Saltville

they start moving, our thoughts—first slow,
at the back of things, almost unnoticed,
preternatural and swelling.

Our griefs come to us just this way.
They’re always there: our secret, adept
knowledges and sudden senses.

Say a woman you have loved for some time,
when she makes such commitments
(those ones, you know the ones…)

well, say you’re driving, late
and alone, with the radio tuned
to reports from the BBC:

Manchester beat such and such,
and Portugal is asking
for a German loan finance.

I stop for coffee. I dispense the pot.
Geography: the geography of our mind
can be so small, then so immense.

We all inhabit several worlds.
Sometimes they mingle, even
when we’d rather they not.

Do you remember the panthers
I was telling you about?
I have never seen one.

My only mystical experiences
have been in dreams, or
in the everything that is

mysterious and gifted. Now
did I ever love her? Well
I think I did. And do.

But it is quiet now, and I’d like
to just rest with this coffee,
and this artery of roads,

and my slowly rolling car
and the radio. I’ve forgotten for now
what roads I’m traveling between.

Rain is dripping
over dozens of ferns
and fungus names.

I am hungry for
other mountains, or
the brush bushed

plains of New Mexico, far
from the rhodedendron hills
of western Carolina

with the small cabin
I imagined, once,
would be my rustic

aberration. An orange sun,
an orange olive table—
the water here is

secretly refreshing. Yet
the exile in me
is immutible.

Currently an MFA candidate in poetry at Virginia Tech, Matt Prater's work has appeared in The American Journal of Poetry, Crannog, The Hollins Critic, Appalachian Heritage, and the James Dickey Review, among other publications.

Illustration by Paul Hostetler

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