Matthew Walsh


When I was born I had an abductor
muscle who could not do their job.
Told they were too weak. Buying shoes
might help, the medical shoes,
which were black, looked like horse
hooves. But they did not correct me—
nothing was wrong, just my leg
slept for prolonged times. Through winter,
if it could, but there was school,
Christmas to get through, and my leg
would not let me sleep. It has a mind
of its own. I once knew a man named Red
Fishta—his father taught ballet—
who told me I could not dance. He diagnosed
me as Too Big. Three or four dancers
in one. My legs were the wrong shape
to pliee. My leg just had a delay. Went on
a date once with a mask collector whose Scrabble
set had lived with him in South Africa
who on a date asked why I was limping
shouldn’t I go get that checked out wasn’t I concerned
for myself, the limping? But I have limped
all my life. When I was tired. I limped. I dragged
it behind me in the Lawton’s Drugs—
my father would say do not do that,
which just could not be
helped—sadly, for him, I would not be
his legacy on any baseball team.
He called me Igor, however it was
lovingly. I liked the way I walked—
with a right-sided gait. My astrology sign
Cancer, the crab, with one big claw, one
little it all seemed so meant to be, starry.

Got older and I got DVT, blood clot
behind my knee, more than three
centimeters long. Diagnosis: crutches for two
weeks, and quit smoking. I loved myself
some Belmont King-size. I loved
pretending I was a caterpillar. My thirties
was a pupal stage before real adulthood
where I was trying my hand at mastering
fine arts. My cancer sign felt more
like destiny. I had to start taking care
of me. No quitting.

Did I love myself? Did I forget to say
I love you? One big calf, one small calf, I
was lonely inwardly. Vancouver can be a
described as a place at the end
of the world. Victoria more so, and I’ve always felt
a shell around me. A protective coating. The blood
clot experts said no more drinking— I was thinking
creatively. I laid around my apartment with a blue
blanket wrapped around my legs. My roommates said
I looked the part of a mermaid or a siren—
I said when do I get to lure men to their deaths?
I started thinking creatively. I was to be a master
of the fine arts. Night monologue:
When I shed crutches
I need to start walking, playing word
games at night, once the blood
clot leaves me
. I would be alone finally
to do what I pleased. Needed to be
changing—not drinking— religiously
taking my experimental blood
clot medicines. Lovenox, Warfarin
I didn’t do the naming. No patent.

I threw all my pill’s down the drain
of an anagram server, found: A wave
of love, A valour inferno, a larvae of nirvana,
a fine flow—all things I wanted inside
myself. Vow. Larval. Winner. Lava. Naval
win. Ox. To err. To fix. Fixer. To win.

I met famous poets who wanted to know—
asked me how’s my knee, how are the feet
in my poetry—a good transitioning
from my medical worries. To think poetry.
A friend half-way through his Saisons
said I had four feet. I said Iamb
is one strong syllable
and a weak syllable. I could be okay,
could choose okay. Build my poetry
back up like strength. Fix my metre,
be stronger than my past Matthews.
The strong syllables get bolded. Trochee.
Wanna live? Or frown? Wanna love? Or war?
I would stand up regardless for myself,
put on my Cancer shell, forget my dystopian
leg. My doctor concludes a history
of blood clots does not run in my family,
little clots, little abductor of my walking
coming from nowhere, like poetry.

Matthew Walsh is a queer writer from the Maritimes. His work has appeared in Arc, The Maynard, Bad Nudes, Matrix, Qwerty and The Malahat Review.