Three Poems

by Ingrid Wendt

"The Thing to Do" -- ""Poem at Forty Five" -- "Words of Our Time"

Ingrid Wendt's books of poems include Moving the House (BOA Editions), and Singing the Mozart Requiem (Breitenbush Books), winner of the Oregon Book Award. She has worked for more than 20 years as a poet in the schools in Oregon, Utah, and Iowa, and was a 1994-95 Fulbright Professor at the University of Frankfurt/Main, Germany. She will return to Germany for one month in 1997 as the guest of the Munich Arts Ministry, to collaborate on a mixed-media art project with Munich sculptor Susi Rosenberg and painter Traude Linhardt. Title poems from her recently-completed manuscript, Questions of Grace, Questions of Mercy, will soon be published by Many Mountains Moving and Nimrod Magazine, respectively.

The Thing to Do

Although what I did that day was right,
reporting the rattlesnakes coiled tightly
together--diamond-backed lovers
oblivious to my step within a breath of
leaves crackling under the bush;

Though he did what he had to,
hacking them dead with his long-handled
garden hoe, flinging the still-
convulsing whips of their passion into
the bed of his pickup--that scene,

bright vulture of memory, stays;
picks this conscience that won't
come clean: this wasn't
the way the story would go
those times I wondered if ever

I'd see my own rattlesnake out in the wild,
having listened through years of summer
hikes, in the likeliest places, without
once hearing that glittering warning
said to be unmistakable; knowing

since childhood, the thing to do is not
flicker a muscle, to stare the face of danger
down as though it didn't exist.
No rattlesnake ever had eyes for another.
And menace never multiplied, one season to next.

Poem at Forty Five

Summer. July. Hot. And the daredevil spiders,
like an eruption of mushrooms, nightly string the whole of their
faith between the same doomed places:

Volkswagen to Datsun;
picnic table to movable bench; bushes
each side of the front porch step. Look!
These spiders are everywhere. Shiny gold peas,
they'd spin the whole house up if they could.

We'd sleep the ritual hundred years,
we'd have to hack our way out. And yet

each morning I find them
beautiful, go
out of my way to lift, lightly, at least

one nearly invisible polar thread to another,
safer, anchor: each
shimmering, flat, before-Columbus plate of the world

adrift: wheels
within wheels
and the motionless sun at the center,

a solstice
poised in its own
readiness: silent

as some days my own words dissolve
in my hands, middle-aged and amazed
at where they have come from,

where they are going. My daughter,
eighteen, on her own, but connected,

my mother, seventy-eight, on her own,
but connected; and I

in the knowledge there is no morning
I can not wake up and find the world
forever changed.

"The Thing to Do" originally appeared in Wilderness
"Poem at Forty Five" originally appeared in Massachusetts Review

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