Roanoke and Wampumpeag

Susan Wheeler - 1955-
Child, entering Ye Olde Trading Post, takes the pegs upon the walls 
For trees, fingers the beaded doll in buckskin dress, a moccasin, 

A square of maple sugar maple leaf, small imprint of a fingernail 
In its clear window. She wants the Minnesota charm in green, 

Six of ten thousand lakes in silver raised, Babe the Blue Ox and her 
Mate. REAL! CAN OF WORMS! a label states; another, on a bow 

And arrows stapled into cellophane: APACHE ARROWHEADS, 
AUTHENTIQUE. Dread of parents, parked, smoking, in the lot. 

Piecework of the quiet shade. Piecework of the whoosh of trees 
Blowing beyond log walls, adults murmuring over turquoise rings, 

Low radio, woman propped with The Making of a President 
Open in her hands. The child calculates the thieving odds, balks.
 
A brother, suddenly. Come ON. The dollar buys four old-tyme sticks, 
Swirled barber poles in green and brown, horehound-hard and stale, 

Each a member's of the family, their car on gravel moving out, trunk 
To traders and the totem pole, behind the ghastly, grinning cow. 

More by Susan Wheeler

That Been to Me My Lives Light and Saviour

Purse be full again, or else must I die. This is the wish 
the trees in hell’s seventh circle lacked, bark ripped by monstrous dogs,
bleeding from each wound. We see them languid there,
the lightened purse a demon drug. Less, less.

At the canal, the dog loops trees in a figure eight — 
a cacophony of insects under sun. A man against a tree nods off.

Let there be no sandwich for the empty purse.
Let there be no raiment for someone skint.
Let blood run out, let the currency remove.
Let that which troubles trouble not.

My father in the driveway. Legs splayed behind him. Pail beside him.
Sorting handfuls of gravel by shade and size. One way to calm
a pecker, compensate for stash. Dad! I lied.

The man shifts by the tree and now grace is upon him.
The slant of sun picks up the coins dropped by travelers and — lo! — 
grace enables him to see. The demon dog fresh off an eight barks, too,
standing, struck by the man, by the coins, barks at their glare;
the man reaches in scrim at the glint in the light and thinks Another
malt. The flesh is willing, the spirit spent,
                                                   the cloud passes over — 
relief is not what you think, not the light. Regard the barking
dog now tugging at the dead man’s leg becoming bark.

You be my life, you be my heart’s guide,
you be the provision providing more,
you be the blood — stanch the sore! — 
you be failing 
                          proportion (mete) . . .  

Steward of gravel squints up at the girl who is me.
What? defensively. Out of the east woods, a foaming raccoon spills.
Palmolive executive? Palmolive customer? Palm’s stony olives
                              on the embankment of limestone or soapstone or
shale. Leg of the man clamped in the dog’s mouth. Mouth
of the man open and unmoved. Voice of the man:

Three dolls sat within a wood, and stared, and wet when it rained
into their kewpie mouths. They were mine to remonstrate to the
trees at large, the catalpas and the fir, the sugar maples in the
glade turning gold. To each is given, one doll began, so I had
to turn her off. Consider how it was for me — 

Flash of the arrow and the foam falls down. Three balletists 
ignoring pliés bound onto the long lawn and its canalward
slope. I am underwater and they haze in the light, 
                                                                      mouth
but do not sound. In the arrow’s blink they start.

Decimal as piercing of the line — 
Table as imposition of the grid — 
Sum as heuristic apoplex — 
Columns in honeysuckle cents — or not.

Just this transpired. Against a tree I swooned and fell, and
water seeped into my shoe, and a dream began to grow in me.
Or despair, and so I chose the dream. And while I slept,
I was being fed, and clothed, addressed — as though awake
with every faculty, and so it went. Then: blaze, blare of sun
after years uncounted, and synesthesia of it and sound,
the junco’s chirp and then the jay’s torn caw, arc
of trucks on the distant interstate, your what the fuck
and then her call. Beside me, pinned to a green leaf,
in plastic and neat hand, a full account. I had indeed still
lived, and been woke for more. So, weeping then, I rose.

Song For the Spirit of Natalie Going

qui s'est refugie
ton futur en moi
—Stéphane Mallarme, "A Tomb for Anatole"

Small bundle of bones, small bundle of fingers, of plumpness, of heart,
predicate, prescient, standing and wobblings, lit up in the joy,
lachrymose GA, your bundle oh KA, the unfolding begun of the start,
of the toys, of witnessing, silly, the eyes startled and up, re-
enveloped now and fresh with the art, chordate, devoted, 
sunk in dreaming of wisps and startled awake — This is morning.
This is daddy. This is the number eight — spacey, resplendent,
in seersucker bib, overalled, astonished, in dazzling fix
on the small crawling lights in their spaceship of night and the
plug and the cord and the big one's delight, pausing,
mezzed by mobile HEH HEH and again, stinging the shopkeepers,
the monkeyish mouth, knees, child knees — need to have the child
here—absence—knees fall—and falling, a dream, a final
singsong UH HAH in the starkest of suns, the heat now a blanket
now a song of your soul—Such a sharp love there is! Such a loud
love there beats! Such a filled hole you leave, in the dusk in the room,
in the wobbling hours of what has refuged, your future in me.

Natalie Joy Hertel-Voisine, 1994-1995

Meeting Again, After Heine

The moon rose like a blooming flower. 
The tin in the hand clattered its charge. 
We walked by in the wavering hour, 
I looking away, you chattering hard. 

Met by luck, with like destinations, 
We startled again at what ended in pique. 
Strollers out, seeing us, had no notion; 
A car alarm cycled its querulous shriek; 

Eighth Street sank in the crack of its nightfall; 
You pressed your satisfactions on me. 
You in your urgency remarked after all
Kindling your passion was enmity; 

Passion had finally erased your calm, 
Made composure a prop of the past. 
I mugged that street noise, din, bedlam, 
Prevented my hearing your story at last. 

As I walked home the strollers were thinning, 
The moon bobbed above roofs like a ball, 
The shade at the bus stop waved to me, beckoning, 
And I nodded fast in the fast nightfall.