Matthew Guenette

A Late-Night Conversation with My Infant Son in a Convenience Store Parking Lot

So I said, but technically speaking aren’t bedtime’s eyes always
upon us?

And my son was like dad, dad, you’re distracted by the real
problem. Bedtime at best is a flimsy referent. An abstraction no
more provable than God. It’s less a specific designation
and more a knob-&-tube operation.

So I said, okay, sure, I see your point. But still. How did parents
survive before clocks? Did kids no matter how overtired just
stay up until whenever? Is bedtime, like time itself, chained to
the meat of things?

And my son was like dad, dad, all a clock does is administer
your thoughts. For the cranky child, time is a roof that leaks. A
clue, like rain.

So I said, sure, maybe. But what if the cranky overtired child is
the clock? Like an artery that pumps from some ultimate
bedtime as proof of something supreme? And while we’re at it,
what’s up with all those tears? Are they not the want of sleep
itself? And isn’t sleep the want of death? And death the want of

By then my son’s head rolled toward the window, I guess like a
revelation. He was out now. I quietly opened the door, slipped
into the convenience store, and bought a sleeve of those awful
mini powdered doughnuts and popped two in my mouth like

In his sleep, my son cheered me on.

Mountain Goats

                                    My roommates
         were all named Matt.
                  The one who hogged the TV.
         The narcoleptic kleptomaniac
                                    and his weirdly religious brother
                                    who sold pyramid schemes
                  from the trunk of a rusted Gremlin.
                           The one who went stargazing—

                  90% of the crap in the sink was his.
The one who came back one night
                  from the bars with a cracked rib
                  was like living with Godzilla.
                  The one who broke a cello.
The one who called Dubuque
         a shitfuck of white people.
Matts and more Matts
                  like a clown car of roommates
who kept me up at night
                           with unintelligible debates—
The Bermuda Triangle versus The Bermuda Parallelogram,

         Jesus versus daddy issues.
Is earth just a flea
                  on a dog’s tail? Are all waiting rooms
plots to ruin our lives?
                  I was afraid the Matts

                           could read my thoughts
                                                      when what I should have been afraid of
                  since it happened enough
was losing my share of rent
                           at the boat then throwing up

                                    in an alley.
                           What I should have been afraid of was
watching nature shows
                                    high on pills.
                                    Me and the Matts losing our
                  while some idiot pissed off a snake,
                           while up in the Andes amazing goats
                  balancing on impossible ledges
made impossible leaps.


We attempt to put our daughter in the car. We gear up. We have to make sure she’s wearing her Rock -N-Roll doggie t-shirt. We have to make the battle not seem like a battle. The several books she won’t read, the bottle of unspillable water. We have to make everything into something else. Have to make sure no sirens or monsters, that her socks match or extremely don’t. That she has her glasses she hates or she’ll dive into the drive and kick off her shoes like a drunk. We have to act like we’re wearing a mask and colorful clothes with diamond-shaped patterns. If we mess up, if there’s anything left, we have to sing doo-wop or “Wee Willy Winkie.” We run through the list like it’s presidential detail, like we’re about to skydive. Because someone said, it was worth it. Because someone said, you should give it a try. You hope your chute deploys. You hope you stick the landing, a spot no bigger than a grape. You hope nothing breaks.

Author Portrait

Matthew Guenette is the author of two poetry collections, American Busboy (University of Akron Press, 2011) and Sudden Anthem (Dream Horse Press, 2008). He lives, works, and loses sleep in Madison, WI.