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Oxymorons By William Matthews

May 28, 2000

Summer school, and jumbo shrimp, of course.

Friendly fire, famous poet, common sense,

and, until very recently, safe sex.

Blind date, sure thing, amicable divorce.

Also there's loyal opposition,

social security, deliberate speed.

How about dysfunctional family?

Eyes blackened, hearts crushed, the damn thing functions.

Some things we say should coat our tongues with ash.

Drug-Free School Zone? No way: it's our money

our children toke, snort and shoot up while we

vote against higher property taxes.

Want a one-word oxymoron? Prepay.

Money's--forgive me--rich in such mischief:

trust officer, debt service, common thief--

these phrases all want to have it both ways

and sag at the middle like decrepit beds.

Religious freedom--doesn't that sound good?

And some assisted living when we're old

and in our cryptic dreams the many dead

swirl like a fitful snow. We'll wake and not

think of our living wills or property.

We'll want some breakfast. Our memories

will be our real estate, all that we've got.

From "After All: Last Poems," by William Matthews (Mariner Books: 56 pp., $13 paper)

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