On the Inside is a single poem in nine parts. Published in 1982, it is a reflection on the destructive nature of politics past and present and the complicity of individuals in their own downfall. The roles of historical development and science, war, imprisonment, institutions, accepted knowledge, materialism are all explored, often represented in the physical aspects of the body. The core issues of personal freedom versus the power of the State and the role of class are traversed in On the Inside. These themes presage the full development of Matson's world view currently expressed in Hello, Paradise. Paradise, Goodbye.
published by: Cherry Valley Editions, 1982
format: perfect bound, 5.25 x 8.25 inches
numbered pages: 67
graphics by: David Kelso
photograph by: Naomi Schiff
Praise for On The Inside
What I admire as I have in the past is [Matson's] scope and fullness of significance...an important work. ~ Josephine Miles
[Matson] has produced a romantic poem, but one which a millimeter beneath the surface has a hard and burning core. With electric and jewel-like phrases he creates an everyday nonchalance that is startling and effective. ~ Sam Steward
Excerpt from On The Inside
The whole game is contained in one move.
And in the next. And in each move after.
we can search for outlines of decency
in ourselves and others, discover a decent human
who can do the fitting thing
as a being alive with other beings,
look to fill half-dreamt postures
with clear, rounded flesh, kind eyes
and spread, firm stance on the ground.
I've seen my legs lengthen underneath,
a range of feeling expand inside
and I know there's nothing more beautiful
than a human with faculties alive,
I love the intelligent spark that flies
between eyes of siblings who feel the same
and I despise the scaly hands that prey
on us and make us dangerous.
The beast is inside us. Inside me.
Peel skin off muscle and bone,
turn flesh layers back
and I discover he's half-grown inside
shooting nerves toward my soul.
Oh throw the beast out. Out.
Sort words apart,
this parasite's from our own,
out the voice that speaks
in super-resonant tones.
Our head is our property and our proper task
is to know what's in it, to own what's ours
and to ask identity of foreign thoughts,
to assess which to defy and which to accept.
It's our DNA that contains information for life,
our bodies and minds the strength
to stand open-eyed, with nostrils cleared
the strength to follow our noses
and smelling a rat's nest
to sniff out the biggest stink.
And the rankest stench
comes from my own back,
from festering scabs and sores
on backs of those nearby!
How often have I felt limbs claw,
elbows shove others down and aside
as people scramble for positions on high,
who will soon all be equal in ashes?
Dean sharpens claws, his hawk's eye
gleams for human prey as he calculates
when to dive into a stoop,
Nadine uses proper words to keep her elite pass valid,
Alvin turns on warmth if you've something to give.
The Iceman dies and lives by the score of the game,
X. clamberee to get rich,
Y. screwed her partner for gain,
Z. had in mind a honey voice,
Son listened to a dog.
With hopes on a distant haven
the crouched fighter perfects a modern stance
--and whose soldier is this, whose human?
Head a steel-sprung computer spinning through tapes
and flashing targets on inner gunsights,
legs angled in status of a tripod
and torso fuel source for lasers
that fire through whirlpool eyes.
Throw out over-competition. Out.
Not our definition of life, that it's dog eat dog,
"Screw them before they screw you,"
not our definition of humans,
that it's our nature to spew energy
in the clash of figurative swords:
The beast defines us
away from our bodies, bends our minds
into loops and lamellar forms
that deny the whole body exists.
How can we be his dupes,
how be indecent if our bodies are the known,
shared common denominator of life on earth!
How glory in another's death
if we're able fully to imagine our own!
No whiff of niter or gangrene
reached B-52 cabins over Vietnam,
no formaldehyde corrodes noses of stockbrokers
dealing junkfood and healthcare in one portfolio,
nuclear companies' dividend checks
probably don't contain much plutonium.
Muggers' necks don't bleed at knife point,
rapers' lips don't part with screams,
when Oreo had Jerry wrapped around her finger
all she felt was the string.
This woman with petroleum-derived make-up,
artificial hair and no sweat,
would she be object to a male fantasy,
and what's her choice?
This man with legs and shoulders
shaped to a triangle and no felt hormones,
is he a 20th century machine,
his head wired with whose voice?
Whose man is this? Whose woman?
Are we deluded
in a wish to escape our bodies
and push ourselves into alien shapes,
pick up the beast's easy formulas
strewn glittering on foot-trodden streets?
Throw him out. Out.
Useless his flat images of jigsaw people,
painful to my body his narrow molds.
Who can fully conceal the feelings
contained within inches of our skin,
who could camouflage the child
runnin scare behin hostil eyes?
We do not hide. We come out human, whole,
not so different in what's different
between our legs as the same,
with organs, head, four limbs, torso
and living sternum all shared.
Shared too the wish for a pleasant life,
shared the desire
that faces we meet have eyes not splintered
by the beast's tooth, shared the wish
that we meet and create a net of actual friendship
I hold and am held in and give
back easily my own warm strength.
Shared too our weaknesses,
shared the cacophony of voices
within our heads, shared my fear
that a phrase may disarm me
and the beast's claw pushing at my chest
will twist me into a dumb actor
in the beast's robot paradise.
Throw him out. Out.