Understanding Each Other in the Dark by Matthew Smart

The shadow messages from passing traffic shine through the bedroom curtains to flash their plans onto my ceiling. They tell me that things should be clean. The darkness of my room reveals all of the world’s imperfections. But what is clean nobody agrees. I used to think the smell of rotting pine needles in the forest smelled clean. I used to think the after-fumes of bleach smelled clean. I used to think there was some ideal, some underlying truth that cleaning revealed. That clean was a thing. We’re taught a clean slate for every transaction is the ideal. A clean slate for every transgression is a compromise. But I know now there is nothing clean. For every light there is a thousand shadows. My degradation is another’s ocean breeze. And we need a basis, a foundation if we are to deal with each other. To start we should try and be sterile at all times. We should bathe ourselves in bleach and rotting forest and all our worst intents. Because I don’t understand the messages that are spilled across my ceiling, but I know from your lights you draw different conclusions.

Matthew Smart lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where he works as an information technology analyst. His writing has appeared in Vestal Review, Cheap Pop, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Ellipsis Zine, Smokelong Quarterly and elsewhere. He serves as Prose Poetry Editor at Pithead Chapel.