Thursday Dec 07

Walser-Poetry John Walser, an associate professor of English at Marian University in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, holds a doctorate in English and Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In 2004, he co-founded the Foot of the Lake Poetry Collective, an organization that sponsors monthly poetry readings, conducts workshops, and provides other opportunities to share poetry within his community. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in a number of journals, including Barrow Street, Nimrod, the Evansville Review, Clackamas Literary Review, Naugatuck River Review, Fourth River, the Hiram Poetry Review, Bird’s Thumb, Lunch Ticket and Quiddity. A semi-finalist for the 2013 Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, John is currently working on three manuscripts of poems.


In the Oban Caledonian Hotel Lobby Bar

Her right hand, melody: her left, lamentation:
bindweed, willow herb, creeping thistle:
she plucks Grace in the highest octave
like a lithograph cut of sky from darkening sky
from mussel shell horizon
from the matte flat velvet bay and shore.
Two men knotted as low tide fishing nets
bar order amber drinks they gulp down
before leaving.
In the window seat corner over my shoulder
a shadow man eats roasted meat:
a heap of hot coating grease smell
sliding through the room.
A middle-aged couple talking with the waitress, locals,
doesn’t pay much attention to volume:
She says: I have new teeth
from a Semitic dentist on Baker Street:
not Edinburgh but London.
I’m learning how to wear them comfortable.
Out of the western coast fog rain
I drove all early sunset through:
it brought false dusk before Glasgow,
brought bends in the road,
washes across shoulders and pavement,
ninety miles of not knowing what was there and there:
feather edged by white wine, I now watch.
On the opposite side, a scruff and tangle tiny dog
unnoticed white under a table
is teased into performance
by a thick woman, a voice like beach shift pebbles
Come. Sit. Sit. Come.
But the dog refuses even the smallest gesture.
Outside plate glass: the ferry has emptied:
rain diffused streetlights grey paint stain sidewalks:
men and women with bags over their shoulders
wheel steamer trunks along the dock.
Some return to closed living room windows
needing to be opened
to the peat sog distillery fire mineral air.
Others, like me, seek single-night rooms.
And the harpist finishes how sweet it is
plucking leaves and petals of a lover’s game:
once found, once lost, now found.

Walking to Harlaxton

When the Sunday night train
steel on steel kestrel screak stopped:
Grantham station November:
stylus prick stars plastic shaped the sky
and a nursery rhyme moon jumped the clouds.
No etch in the air, no mist breath:
the idle of taxis easily ignored:
I shoulder slung
my Cambridge short weekend backpack
and loving cool smoothness
city block to city block walked
toward a five mile away bed.
Now almost three miles in:
a point between there and there
where the abandoned canal path
and the country houses somewhere close
are blanked by a pavilion
of grove tree shadows
I had only day walked before:
three quarters of a mile
of no streetlamp shades of not seeing
anything at all.
There is no harm
I say to the branch shift
There is no harm
I say to the cancellation of sight
in being alone:
in being lungs, stomach, stride.
When engines behind me tick
whitewash carlights approaching
I’m briefly elongated
over my future steps:
but those lights transform
into red distancing stares.
When I close my eyes
to coming toward me headlights:
my right foot rolls slightly
when the path slightly rolls:
my left foot knows as well
where the gravel and grass edge is:
and the potato drill musk becomes
as solid as the Midlands air
that second skins me:
as pond water clear as the taste
of my breathing:
as large as something unknowably small
brush rustling away
from my steps.
I keep them closed
searching the hidden function:
the frog tongue brain that tricks thought:
the ancient system that sees unaware:
like the blind who beyond chance
laboratory grasp objects
held out to them:
wild blackberry patch bank spill
a bevy of granite swan eggs
belltower saints cemetery stone
lichen smoothed.
For fifteen minutes:
no longer small
no longer isolated
no longer waiting for my brain
to accept what I don’t see
Except for when I trust trust only so far:
the sound of trucks on the A607.
Except for when I occasionally check
the eastern star above the Harlaxton pub
I wish was still holy night open.


On the way we count dead deer
along the highway
live ones roadside standing
those hanging in garages:
fall’s mortality game.
After we round a bend
before we head to another
Wisconsin countryside
just east of the Mississippi
I from a distance see them
gravel walking in slumped black
and I think Goths
and am about to say Goths
to Julie
(a day trip away from our stifling city)
when she says Amish.
For a moment the roll of the river valley hills
the stubborn greenness of the fields
the thinness of the barbed wire
to keep the horses and cows
there and there
the names of dried flowers along the barely shoulder
the weeds and grasses that tangle russet thick
the drainage ditch lip
makes me dizzier than the sky. 

Never set a watch backwards
   I was told as a child:
something about tiny spring works
about tensile strength flaws.

Spin the hands almost half a day
or almost a full one
sometimes almost a month
sometimes one hour short of a year:
an hour already gone now marked
and repeated.
They are teenagers:
she has on a slouched shawl:
he’s a hobnailed slunk backed tromp:
it is early November.
Their faces are fragile
as wood plane shavings
and then gone
when I pull the car
into the other lane
sidle back over the line:
I want to say something smart
about nostalgia
about being lost
in the gnaw of a past
that never existed
but as I accelerate into the next
riverroad bend
that Mobius strip twists:
a Klein bottle:
past and future
inside and out
me and not me
all at the same time:
I watch them retreat
in the rearview mirror:
upshift, downshift:
and say Amish.