Counting Sheep Till Doomsday
by Carlo Matos
BlazeVOX Books, $16 (paper)


The prose poems in Carlo Matos’s second collection engage questions about the nature of free will: How does one discern fate from one’s choices? To what extent will one’s life be circumscribed by the actions of others? Amidst all of this, what is the purpose of violence? As the book unfolds, answers to these questions multiply, suggesting the impossibility of claiming such knowledge. For example, Matos writes at the beginning of a sequence called “Fate*,” “You’re gonna’ go out. You’re gonna’ start a fight with a bear, and you’re gonna’ lose.” These sentences imply at first that one is capable of discerning fate from freely made choices. Perhaps more importantly, Matos suggests that this knowledge manifests through an engagement with language. The sequence shatters these initial expectations as the poet re-inscribes the same images with myriad possibilities for interpretation. Language becomes unstable, equivocal. He writes, “Elija asked god to send she-bears to tear the teeth from the children who mocked him bald—so many stones pulling the skulls.” Here Matos revisits the bears, imbuing them with a religious dimension not present before, and the bears become a figure for providence.