City of Angles

Promises were made
Hypotenuses measured like thick envelopes
curled, faded, & besmirched
streets that never curved
The mayor’s chic campaign placards
wilting & graffiti pocked dwindle
down sculpted building facades
        Degrees were prominent street names
30 Degree Avenue like a hemline of the city’s skirt
180 Degree Boulevard swung two ways as slick
double-dutch arms, cars gridding north and south
& signal-tower symmetry, & octagonal poise
studding intersections, & two-dimensional citizens
unaware arches are considered lovely or pools
can be mirrors or the breeze comforts one during a humid
spell & doesn’t paste you to the ground, winsd
rendering the angles catchers-of-form & kissing
        tears a hole in a paper face, deepens, swells

Combing the Map Flat

It’s crooked roads branching
from serene grids.

It’s dirt roads leading
somewhere unmapped.

It’s water
towers proclaiming what GPS claims
before GPS can.

The wall is long and high and separates many people.

It doesn't need to say anything.

It’s canvas painted so realistic that patrons walk
into the brick wall.

It’s the dinosaur egg in Hitler’s undiscovered underground.

Hitler’s past mustaches pinned behind glass like butterflies.

Tiny, tiny butterflies of the upper lip.

Their migration patterns astutely captured
during propaganda films.

It’s enlarging Greenland while shrinking

It’s the hills pushing back against your palms
as you sharpen the creases.

Your fingertips glistening the Pacific.
Knocking a speedboat into a wake.

It’s two ferries slicing so close
the lake is afraid.

It’s all the books on maps stacked on this map

An ant walks into the present depiction.

It doesn’t appear as anything we’ve ever seen.

The government spends exorbitant sums to bomb the ant.

The ant, after surrendering, is stuck like a butterfly behind glass.

The ant, after surrendering, claims a second ant was in the tree
in the northwest quadrant of the map.

Riding in a mercenary’s hands, the ant burrows under the skin
to find the gerbils tunneling.

He kills a gerbil and doffs its carcass.

The furious mercenary is shorn of his arm.

It’s a discussion about how to figure out if a gerbil is a gerbil.

The mercenaries get out a map to strategically map
combing adjacent areas to the tree.

The mercenaries shovel up the area around the tree and find beaucoup ants.

It’s remembering that the gerbil is really an ant inside, it thinks
like an ant, and wouldn’t the ant tunnel?

It’s the government warnings and the slaughter of ants and protection and television
ads and pundits and talk shows and blood.

It’s a mustache of ants that looks like a mustache.

It’s an ant that grows a mustache and calls it a map.


For more information about this piece, see this issue's legend.

Matthew Schmidt is working on a PhD in English at the University of Southern Mississippi. His poems have been published or are forthcoming in Hobart, indicia, Word For/Word, and elsewhere.

4740 Lower West Branch Rd.
Iowa City, IA 52240

The location of my grandparents farm. Possibly where I feel the most safe, comfortable, and at peace. I learned how to drive and castrate sheep here. And, it used to feel like the fields would never end.