Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Selected Works, Kenneth Wagner

Today’s Version of Us  
we are bears on the verge of suicide
doors with no sense of direction

we are white doves misused in a deep angry war
by worn windows and rust-colored chains
and the back fence is trying to say it’s not leaving
as old berries thorn under our tree 

we are apples that sit in cheap seats with drunks
we hear harps play on steps to a bridge

the earth has gone and surrounded us again
and oceans have lifted their skirts 
and you tell me we are more circles than squares 
with some untied knots east of here
and I tell you today is our own copper time
because tomorrow we live in midair

light pours in these curious days - warping
floorboards and worrying leather chairs
ceiling fans ticker below web-draped 
rafters   doors list in frames   window panes leak 
and the house expands and contracts with the day 

how like me this building slowly fades
path worn and lived in with chipped baseboards 
and buckling walls that mimic
our mutual descent

just as the wobbly banister 
and crooked stairs report the weight of age
the orchestral creak of the front door hinge
tunes to the settling of the house 
and synchronizes 
our calamity   perfectly

I Only Remember the Moment
Do you remember that thought that slanted 
like sunshine through the glass 
then reflected into a greater idea and grew
out past my imagined self 

little snaps of light crackling in front of me
as the idea dripped on the back of my tongue
and I spoke the thought turned idea in one breath 

I was glazed over with the knowledge
sitting in that chair   I couldn’t believe
I had captured a meaning so huge   

the weight of thought bent around 
and absorbed into me   wiping away
the remnants of uncertainty

it was formed so perfectly clear even 
the dog nodded in agreement

that deep question only gods answer

The Geometry Teacher
a truncated cone 
with soft blue eyes
and rumpled clothes

he taught dimensional
zero in a monotone voice
that made heads loll

he saw only shapes 
not colors   and knew
no one else could see

the triangular birds
the warm air

in a quiz   he’d whiffle
down the aisle   his worn
corduroy slacks whispering

him to the back of the class
where he’d stare out 
the rectangular windows

and dream
of rhombus flowers
hiding quadrilateral cats

I’d find a room in the bark of an old pine tree
and in the morning raft the ridges
to the forest floor   then burrow under
needles and leaves to the spa of a nurse log

I could hang suspended over Saguaros
in the retinal nerve of a vulture’s eye
rising and falling on thermal air
to see how dead bodies look like a banquet 

wouldn’t it be nice to be the wall the fly lands on

and how peaceful to spend a week
as a broken window in an abandoned house
the tension of holding off weather relaxed
the constant fear of rock-toting boys dismissed

I could lounge on the half-drawn page of an animator’s desk after dark

or pitch a tent inside a circle left 
on the chalkboard in a second-grade class
while the summer sun heats the scent 
of white paste and watercolor paint

but I’ve settled for this long drive with the dog
over a pass to a two lane straight away 
where warm air buffets my ears 
and the dog   head out the back-seat window
pants to the beat of inconsistent fence posts 

Kenneth Wagner lives in the Pacific Northwest; he has had the fortune being David Wagoner’s student and teaching assistant at Hugo House in Seattle for eleven years.  Kenneth has also taught poetry, art, and theatre in primary schools (pre-pandemic) and found that third graders are the most daring artistically and physically - of the K-12 lot that call themselves kids.

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