Laura Madeline Wiseman
And who but I should be the poet of comrades? ~Walt Whitman (1892)
We were in the dark—forty
degrees, the live oaks creaking above us,
the boardwalks weeping with ice,
our friendship a small thing, a match
that flares in a cupped hand. I asked
for a kiss—a heat of summer,
of June days heavy with humidity
and sweat—this warmed us,
where our lips touched again.
Journal Entry: Love
You kissed me hard after you said the word. It floated
on the surface, on the lake—like a male swan, like an edge
walked to—its o a wedding ring, a life ring, thrown far
into the water, the second consonant vibrating, a ripple.
When you say do I, when you grab my hand
and pull me to you, when you recite “Song of Myself”
into my ear, pressing against me on the footpath
in a waltz under the moonlight and live oaks
after having five minutes of the word in my mouth
I laugh, throaty and effervescent,
all the while feeling the l down the length of my body
like a purring, a tuning fork, and that e
silent, soft, sliding off into breath.
Joliet, Illinois, 1905
To All Good Citizens:
Because I am deaf, three men undertook
to amuse themselves with me in the dark.
One tried to trip me up as I passed him.
Another grabbed the flesh of my neck
and bent me down. A third came up to my back.
It was dark. I could not see. I heard nothing.
I could not get loose. I tried to prick the man
in the leg with my knife to warn him to let go.
I was charged with cutting this man. He bled
to death from a wound an inch and a third wide.
I did not feel my knife enter the man.
I think that someone else did the deed
while he was on me in the dark.
I am condemned for life.
–Geo W. Felts
With so much debris on the lawn, it’s awful
we can still see you against the sky, an after burn, a shadow.
But the men are gone with their saws, limbs
dragged off to be shredded into nothing
as you hold the earth by your outstretched roots
pulling up water, nutrients, that limbic sap still.
Imagine Paul Bunyan afterwards, a stump,
his axe, the blue ox pawing—
staring at the gap of the forest canopy,
silencing the ox’s bell with one calloused fist
as if trying to catch the last breath,
any small sound of passing.
Laura Madeline Wiseman has a doctorate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She is the author of the book Sprung (San Francisco Bay Press, 2012) and six chapbooks of poetry. She is also the editor of the anthology Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2013).
The first three poems here are from Men and Their Whims, forthcoming in 2013 from Writing Knights Press.