// matthew sherling


every protagonist is a detective, 

& in the desert, 

everyone is a detective. 

the first thing the desert teaches 

is apocalypse means 

lifting the veil. 

the first thing the veil teaches 

is that we need a protagonist. 

the first thing the apocalypse teaches 

is that the veil isn’t there. 

the first thing a protagonist teaches 

is that we need productive questioning. 

i accept my mask 

& i accept the wind trying

to push it off my face. 

when the mask won’t stay

on my face, i say, “the mask 

literally won’t stay on my face!” 

& the teacher who gave it to me 

says, “gentle reminder to stay quiet.

if you’ve spoken during this time 

what does that say about who you are?”

the desert appears more neutral 

than it is. no actual repetition – 

even space doesn’t repeat itself. 

constant humming. sound without meaning. 

bewildered restraint. 

a wound having to deal with clumsiness. 

don’t apologize before you speak – 

you’re not here to upset anyone. 

the light wakes up in the middle 

of my head without warning. 

in the desert there’s the foreshadowing 

of the city, & in the city shirts hang 

from every fencepost trying to be sold. 

in the desert i fill up this notebook 

with every star i’ve ever eaten. 

a tree has a bird in it 

& the river is the instrument 

behind every song it sings. 

we encounter another figure 

within every figure we encounter. 

perhaps there’s romantic tension. 

perhaps when we stop calculating 

how old each thought is 

we will not need a calculator.

each morning i walk in the desert 

& wave at each cactus 

no matter how aggressive it looks. 

yes i am producing chaos again 

with all this silence. 

i close my eyes 

& a flower falls out of my mouth. 

i walk to the end of the desert 

& cast my net toward rest

then bury my net all the way 

into a stone. half of a stone 

can be broken in half & in half 

& what can we see 

without judgment 

when all of us put our arms 

around each other, 

when all of us have holes 

& all of us have wind whistling 

thru us. i wanna talk about it, 

& i love what you find to bring me. 

hinges are my favorite part 

of an opening

but sometimes you have to discard 

a hinge, & it’s super fucking easy 

to find a hinge. 

buy 2 doors & get your third one 

free. open 3 doors 

& you’re suddenly talking ad nauseum 

about nothing, saying “I” until 

it makes you nervous. 

no doctrine. 

there’s a window that never closes 

completely. i fly inside a room 

looking for pens. any thing 

at any given time is every thing  

included in it. for example, 

when i thank the desert, 

i am thanking the people 

in it with me, the sky that enfolds it, 

the blunt shards of glass 

that encircle the dilapidated shacks, 

the dogs yelping for someone

to prove that nothing’s wrong, 

the sun turning its volume up. 

when one travels from the ocean 

to the desert one realizes 

the desert looks like what it’s not. 

an ancient seabed. 

& in your body the ocean & earth 

are fucking, & the sky 

has its androgynous hands 

around each of your shoulders

after all this time. 

i mean, the most common death 

in the desert is drowning. 

my throat feels dry 

just thinking about it, 

& the horny toad’s still guarding 

its heart’s droplet, 

& the protagonist 

is still asking questions. 

the commas still don’t wanna be periods, 

& the periods, when they do appear, 

are more like pebbles 

than stop signs, 

pebbles you can move out of the way 

if you want to, 

& each pebble is a small idea, 

& each fractal pattern

the mud makes is another 

rebellious math experiment.