Night Shift at the Materials Recovery Facility with Frank

We heap rags on the pile of history, a beautiful fiction, as Conrad said,
closer to truth. Archives of sorrows and bones. I throw 
objects on Frank’s pile and burrow below again to find

something else he might like. Frank knows what I like. A spring 
day in Prague, a dark winter sky in Vienna, a waltz. I fling sound
images to draw him up to the surface: Langston Hughes listening

to My Yiddishe Momma in a hotel in Turkmenistan,
Benny Goodman’s Sing Sing Sing playing in an Indiana barn.
Frank told me he falls in love through his ears. He sends

over Jack Spicer’s correspondence with the dead
poet Federico Garcia Lorca, and the eternal electrified gaze
between Billie Holiday and Lester Young, Fine and Mellow.

I let fly an etching of The Ploughman that once hung above
Franz Kafka’s writing desk, to remind him that even in his despair,
spring will come. Frank sends me Ezra Pound upside down

his legs crossed in the shape of the number 4. I toss bright inked colors
depicting Hasidic legends under a yellow sky, prepare
to lob over the Dutch artist Hendrik Werkman’s printing-pressed lines:

             Struggle is not useless
             Useless struggle is not useless

But then Frank sends me Goethe’s oak tree, and the dark hole
of an unmarked grave below it, small clumps of his mother Sheyna’s hair.
I only see him momentarily. I see his eyeglasses’ glare,

the way his back curves in bending down to scoop up more for me.
All the while on the surface of my pile, I am searching for some bright
indication of who Frank is. I know it is here

in the accumulation of things, how they all fit together,
like a puzzle that wants to interlock perfectly but must
be worked at with a little patience.

Frank gently sets down a wooden bucket of black milk.
I burrow below and drink by spoonfuls, cover myself in a death fugue
and do not speak, sit in silence for weeks, then slowly

a melody seeps through the cracks of history.
Cum dederit dilectis suis somnum, Frank whispers,
so He giveth unto His beloved in sleep...

             cum dederit dilectis suis somnum,
             so He giveth unto His beloved in sleep...

Kim Curts Mattheussens studied German literature at Ball State University, the Katholische Universität Eichstätt and WWU Münster. She is currently pursuing an MFA in creative writing from the Bluegrass Writers Studio. She lives in Los Angeles.