Literature 5-21-2007

What Light: This Week’s Poem: Matt Rasmussen

"What Light: This Week's Poem" is sponsored by Magers and Quinn Booksellers and brings you a poem every week by a Minnesota poet, selected by a panel of writers and publishers. Get the new anthology, “What Light,” at Magers and Quinn.

Matt Rasmussen


It does not mean anything.
        René Magritte

In the hallway of life
you were a rose with no stem

and I, the janitor sweeping
away the fallen petals.

You say that the world revolves
while we ourselves remain

in the darkness of the never-
ending, never-beginning never.

I say that the man who
was humiliated in the second act

and shot himself in the fifth,
stands up, smiles, bows.

The lamp asks,
is it the shadow writing this,

the pen, or their converging?
The paper says nothing.

Please read this and tell me
how much it moved you.

If not at all, please include
with your response, bullets.

Thank you.


The poem is not based on any particular Magritte painting (there is, however, a reference to Dali’s Rose Meditative), but Magritte’s phrase “It does not mean anything” (speaking about mystery, I believe) was the jumping off point. I wrote the poem at a time when I was sending out work about my brother’s suicide to literary journals and imagined the readers or editors (if I was lucky) wanting to reject them but afraid of the damage this might do to the delicate psyche of the speaker, who is often (and sometimes rightfully) confused with the poet.


Matt Rasmussen’s poetry has been recently published or is forthcoming in Gulf Coast, Passages North, Dislocate, The New York Quarterly, LIT, and Redivider. He currently lives in Hopkins, MN, is a participant in the Loft Mentor Series, and teaches at Gustavus Adolphus College and Rasmussen College. His chapbook, Fingergun, is available from Kitchen Press.