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Matthew Freeman: Pilgrim’s Progress/Into Outer Space

Image: Unsplash, downloaded ( 06.01.2023.


I thought I’d been cruelly kissed

and while I was right

I never could’ve anticipated this,

this intense and almost incredible


It’s what keeps me going back,

stuck, no time for me,

PTSD over a kiss.

And yes, so quiet when

someone sits next to me at MoKaBe’s.

How He Works

I chose the path

straight down,

straight through hell.

It was at Pat’s,

over on Oakland,

somewhere during the early nineties

when I was drinking

a lot of Budweiser.

“You’re so full of shit,”

said one of my buddies.

“Well, watch your back,”

said a young Jesuit

who’d overheard everything.

And then I couldn’t

tell right from

wrong, or whether I was

a vampire, or especially

whether a

special someone at

MoKaBe’s could hear

my thoughts.

I’m not sure if it’s because I replayed this at analysis,

or if it’s the Church’s Chicken,

or just all of my sad friends

here smoking with me on the patio

at Parkview Place

but I’m a whole lot clearer now,

and thankfully a little numb.


I’d been thinking

that I’d achieved a level of suffering

that I could understand, that I could deal with.

Well, I guess I’ll still have to take

that fairly large dose of Ativan.

This time Diana was about thirty feet away

when we were smoking on the patio

so I raised my arms as if to yawn

just to get her attention

and it came to be then

I was possibly signaling a crucifixion

so I got incredibly embarrassed

and turned away

and I was very shy smoking my guilty cigarette

and when I finished

I went to tell everyone goodbye

but Diana wouldn’t respond or even look at me

as I realized

she had interpreted my stupid gesture

as one of absolute horrible triumph

so I whispered her name

sure that she was going to get onto social media

and curse me

and then loudly Red arrived

to boisterously say hello

and straight-up asked Diana if he were too loud

and she was like, no, sometimes

I might look angry but I’m really not angry,

I’m never angry, you’re not too loud at all,

I’m cool, I’m just a quiet person.


I came out swinging. Okay, not

exactly true.

I was pressed upon, downtrodden,

and I merely sat there and took it.

An evil force entered into my consciousness.

I don’t have the means to call it

anything else.

The sad poor Psychiatric Discourse

cannot explain

what it’s like to be struck

by lightning.

My first shrink has now passed and I’m free.

I know I’m alive because I can still feel

the tingling.

I’m seeing the presence open up

all about me again,

and there hasn’t been any time.

This time

I’m not dividing everything up.

I’m reporting on things as they appear.

You might call it—not I—some pilgrim’s progress.

When my teeth were rotting in the wind

and I was walking the snowy icy path

from the 97 down to Café Ventana

in that Waterloo to finish school

it was as if my Whole were rotting too on a timer

and I had to hurry up and get the hell out of there.

So you can imagine what it’s like

to have beautiful clear dentures

and that long longed-for sheepskin.


You get to the point where you have to ask

whether it was merely allegory

or it actually happened

or some weird conflagration of both.

But then there is no one to ask.

It’s not like you’re going to join

the seminary at the age of forty-nine.

And anyway the Old Master said that

the literal is death. Though

I’m starting to think it might be life.

Whenever I’m at Starbucks with my buddies

we all try to talk to one another

but I personally

have to keep backing it up.

I’m so sorry for the annoyance.

It’s funny, my sister

thinks it’s that my hearing is going bad

but that’s not it, not it at all.

Like I know now for sure

I could never go into Outer Space.

About the Author: Matthew Freeman's seventh collection of poems, I Think I'd Rather Roar, is soon to be released by Cerasus Poetry. He holds an MFA from the University of Missouri-St Louis.


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The image of Quasimodo is by French artist Louis Steinheil, which appeared in  the 1844 edition of Victor Hugo's "Notre-Dame de Paris" published by Perrotin of Paris.


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