paper • 90 pages • 17.95
ISBN: 978-1-954245-86-0
eISBN: 978-1-954245-87-7
March 2024 • Poetry

We Are All Sleeping with Our Sneakers On

Matthew Lippman

We Are All Sleeping with Our Sneakers On showcases Matthew Lippman’s characteristic humor, strangeness, and honesty at the peak of his lyrical powers. These poems embrace mess as an inevitability of authentic living and human interconnection. Lippman gathers us into a bouquet. Picked from the garden and stems trimmed with the kitchen shears, maybe, but flowers all the same. In “The Big White American Segregation Machine,” Lippman narrates the moment when the partitions that maintain white cognitive dissonance collapse. He says to a friend, “Private education sucks,” but reflexive commiseration turns his gaze inward. “Then I realized I was a teacher. / Not that I was a teacher. / That I was a teacher in a private school.” He confronts, even as he does not solve, the way the collective delusion of the American Dream alienates us from sustainable living. “At some point in my life I wanted to be a firefighter,” Lippman reminisces. “So did the person next door and the stock broker / and the kid who punched the other kid on the playground. / I am sure of it.” Why such insistence? “It has to be true / because wanting to be a firefighter / is the only thing that keeps the world / from not being torn asunder / by flame, and ash, and an impossible, raging / heat.” In delineating the psychology of nostalgia, Lippman brilliantly reveals the fear of destruction and myopic sense of self-preservation that prevent us from leveraging goodness, from allowing combustion to clear the way for something better. “How does one change the culture, the mind culture, the heart culture?” he asks. “How does that happen? / More flowers? / More iced tea? / More ballet and modern dance? / Maybe more oboe and piano.” In the end, the strength of Lippman’s poems comes from the sincerity of their questioning and his willingness to muster an answer despite the world’s surplus of doubt and despair. “Hello kindness,” this poet tries again. “I am here and I want to hold your velvet hand / through the dark movie theater with the sticky, crunchy floors.” If that is all there is, it is mercifully enough.

from “On Our Best Days”

Some days, there is no time.
We walk around confused, and in our polka-dotted shorts.
We walk around in our anger and sadness
and can’t seem to sit down at the same table and eat the pot roast.
It’s a beautiful pot roast.
We should all eat the pot roast.
What else is there but the fork and the spill?
Because it does not matter if you believe in flying saucers
and she believes in Frida Kahlo.
We have to share the sidewalk
like we have to share the path
when the mountain bikers race down it, too close to our children,
who almost get hit by the spinning wheels, fall down
and smash their heads against the rocks.
Our hearts are so big.
You can feel it right now, can’t you?
The cat feels it.
The worm feels it.
We’re just walking around.
Some of us fall onto the concrete.
Some of us pick up the person who has fallen.
One day it will be us that falls
and there will be a nice folk in yellow chiffon
to come and prop us up against the mailbox,
brush us off-the blood and dirt-
even if it means they get stinking filthy dirty
right before letting us go.

Praise from Ed Pavlić
Praise from Virginia Konchan
Praise from Nicole Graev Lipson

Late at night, one night, a man holds his daughter’s hand, a thing as normal, we’re told, as sauna-sweaty nudes in Finland walking their dogs. Except this man’s a poet, rejected, and wondering if he’s relevant, and the girl’s anaphylaxis makes her afraid she can’t breathe. And outside is outside, maybe. Maybe there’s a deadly plague rampant on Earth, maybe it’s Covid, maybe it’s whiteness, maybe it’s Nazis, neos, or racist post-shtetl grandmamas? Maybe it’s relevance? We don’t always know,maybe.Neither does Matthew Lippman know. But in the way only real poems know, that is, know how, these poems do know, have learned, that it’s never just about peanuts and editors, or flame, or relevance, or Nazis. It’s not. At times we wish it was-it’s that we’re here, and these poems know what it is to be here, and how, always “burning with not enough,” and “trying to feel something,” it comes down to how to “turn the neighborhood into a neighborhood.” We Are All Sleeping With Our Sneakers On puts us in midst of all that happening, which is one thing happening, maybe, which is everything, which is the only thing happening.

—Ed Pavlić, Author of Call It in the Air

In a world “too much about the mind,” ideological differences, and social performance, Matthew Lippman has written a love ballad to our times that aims straight at the heart. He conjures the Romantic ideals-beauty, truth, goodness-in an absurdist contemporary idiom, with genuine feeling taking center stage, as a corrective and balm in a world where unity, togetherness, and intimacy have been lost. Traversing past and present and our costumed and nude selves, this collection invokes music, baseball, family, strangers, cities, and stories, turning zombies back into humans and “invent[ing] an algorithm to slow everything down.” A soundtrack to your formative memories and companion in your loneliest hour, We Are All Sleeping With Our Sneakers On recalls Sufism’s ecstasy and devotion to the beloved, singing beyond all divisions “there should always be love.”

—Virginia Konchan, Author of Bel Canto

Reading Matthew Lippman’s poetry is like being shaken out of a deep slumber to behold, sud- denly, a glimmer of possibility under every surface. Daring, urgent, and suffused with longing, this collection cracks through the walls that keep us strangers to ourselves and one another, seizing on to what is most true and vital about being human. Whether writing about fatherhood, music, rac- ism, whiteness, performance art, baseball, New York City in the 80s, or pandemic suburbia, what Lippman is really writing about-always-is what it means to love.

—Nicole Graev Lipson, Pushcart Prize-Winning Author of Mother and Other Fictional Characters