The Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize


Two poems from Matthew Thorburn's This Time Tomorrow

followed by a note on the author


In Reykjavik

but wherever we are it's like this.
Try to go one place, we wind up
someplace else. Lily, how do we get back
to Austurstræti? "Didn't we pass that
church already?" Nothing feels familiar
enough. Nothing nods back. In a misty
drizzle we look for Ásmundur Sveinsson's
studio-turned-museum and drive by
Einar Jónsson's instead. "Did this happen
when they were alive too?" A strange
new world hides inside each stone

"I know I read it, but who gets the credit
for that one, again?" We linger over
his tools, chisels laid out largest to smallest
like a xylophone. A few unfinished pieces –
rough outline of a man, or is that a dog
and that one's a man? – stand out back, fuzzed
with moss. "Now they'll never be finished,
which is just another kind of finished."
Everything not it gets chipped away

that's how our work is done
. And so we go.
You splash along in your new rubber boots
the color of an old hot water bottle. Umbrellas
pop up like blue flowers. Seagulls –
hundreds, hundreds of seagulls – hitchcock
around Lake Tjörnin, white and light gray
against the darker sky. Back in the car
you unfold the map, look deep into its tangle
of blue and red lines. Will it ever be this easy
ain? You tell me where to turn. We turn.





That's a hot dog with fried onions
(the kind that come in a can) and stripes
of brown mustard and mayo. We each
ate one standing outside the metal shack
down by the harbor. It'd become a tourist site –
seriously, a green bus pulled up; and after all
we were there, weren't we? –
after Bill Clinton stopped by for a pyls
and a Coke a few years back.
They have his picture up over the register.
He must have done what we did –
turned around slowly till the wind
blew at his back and watched the whale-watchers
straggling back in off the boat, gray-faced
in their yellow and blue slickers,
glanced past them to the Esso station –
odd how it's the best place to get your hands on
cups of yogurty skyr, the ones with the smart
folding spoons tucked under the lids –
and wondered why are gas stations
also often restaurants here, the only lights on
in the smaller towns, and felt secretly happy
about this country's love of burgers and dogs,
pizza, fries dipped in remoulade, even if
a hot dog sets you back seven bucks (he wouldn't
have cared, or even known) because
everything's shipped in and trucked around,
until the wind turns around again
so you do too, and wolf down your last two bites.





Matthew Thorburn was born in Lansing, Michigan in 1973. He earned his BA from the University of Michigan, where he was a two-time Hopwood Award winner, and his MFA from The New School. He is the author of two books of poems, Subject to Change (New Issues, 2004) and Every Possible Blue (CW Books, forthcoming 2012), and a chapbook, the long poem Disappears in the Rain (Parlor City, 2009). Thorburn's poems have appeared in many journals, including the American Poetry Review, Michigan Quarterly Review and Ploughshares, and he has contributed essays and book reviews to Jacket, Pleiades, Rowboat: Poetry in Translation and other journals. He lives in New York City, where he works as a marketing manager for an international law firm.

"In Reykjavik " first appeared in Cave Wall, and "Pylsur" first appeared in the Paris Review.

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