Winter 2004, Volume 21.2
Ingrid Wendt's books of poems include Moving the House, Singing the Mozart Requiem (recipient of the Oregon Book Award for poetry), and Blow the Candle Out. Her latest book The Angle of Sharpest Ascending received the Yellowglen Prize from Word Press. The Fertility Plant on her windowsill is a descendant of the small one her daughter brought home from preschool 28 years ago.
Give Us This Day
Just as everyone knows the end might come without warning
Any morning, the usual intersection and someone running the light,
Or maybe a gun in the cafeteria. Suitcase exploding. Fuselage
Simply missing one simple bolt. And we know not
To dwell on these thoughts, to survive.
Just as when my older friend was dying, and knew it, saying
I've learned what I wish I'd known all my life, and I wanted to
Know her secret and didn't ask, so sure of having one last chance.
This much I've learned: Savor it. This daily bread.
What if this were our last day alive?
So, too, you with your own secret ticking, lab tests predicting
Tomorrow the beats all of us count on could stop.
With proper exercise, diet, maybe
Not for a year. Or two.
Each moment, remember. Each moment, forget.
whose heart knows and won't tell.
Otherwise known as Mother of Millions,
who dare question her love of children,
the old woman who lived in the shoe
had it slick. But this brood is used
to falling in anywhere—Jade Plant, Coleus—
they even stay small a long time. Of course
not everyone makes it, or this would be called
an invasion: parachute jumpers sprawled
all over your windowsill: crocodile teeth
spilling from leaf edges, bottom jaws, each
tooth for weeks with its roots exposed,
shameless, waiting a pot of its own.
Too busy bearing to bloom, their mother
goes it alone. Single, she's tough, her one
stem ascending high as cathedral scaffolding,
bending sometimes at the knees, holding
on to faith in powers beyond
her control: magic or God: one wand
and hundreds of incarnations just
like mother, hand over fist
rolling like syllables over green edges
serrated like knives: so many blessings
who could refuse to receive each one?
Who would curse each holy ghost of a tongue?
After a painting by Odilon Redon, 1911
Caught at last in this brown caution,
this wake of sound beyond the known
alphabet, where is our refuge?
Frame of forgetting.
Frame of remembering.
Floor of a faith forever gone.
Steps we've taken, those footprints
are in us forever. Listen.
All those words we never will say, echoing.