Connie Wanek’s book, On Speaking Terms, is reviewed in the NYT Book Review this week, and the short excerpts appealed to me, so I found more about her, and these two poems posted on the Minnesota Arts website.
Red was passion, black was strength.
Yet one checker always had gone missing.
a deserter discovered eventually
cowering under a chair cushion.
What was there to fear?
Only time itself would be killed.
I was one who never planned ahead,
who sent my infantry into any open field.
Under my command they aspired
merely to be captured,
jumped and hauled off, bearing the smiles
of the successfully defeated.
Who really wanted to be kinged?
To stagger under a crown
heavy as a headstone,
to wander the board without a court
or even the escort of a fool?
What was glory? I never understood the word.
Often some idle soul of a certain age
taught checkers to the young,
continually overruled by blind luck.
Then came snacks and naps
and afterwards, the balance of the day.
The wind cooled as it crossed the open pond
and drove little waves towards us,
brisk, purposeful waves
that vanished at our feet—such energy
thwarted by so little elevation.
The wind was endless, seamless,
old as the earth.
to regard us with favor. I felt them alight,
felt their minute footfalls.
I was a challenge, an Everest …
And you, whom I have heard breathe all night,
sigh through the water of sleep
with vestigal gills …
A pair of dragonflies drifted past us, silent,
while higher up two bullet-shaped jets
dragged their roars behind them
on unbreakable chains. It seemed a pity
we’d given up the sky to them, but I understand so little.
Perhaps it was necessary.
All our years together—
and not just together. Surely by now
we have the same blood type, the same myopia.
Sometimes I think we’re the same sex,
the one in the middle of man and woman,
born of both as every child is.
The waves came to us, one each heartbeat,
and lay themselves at our feet.
The swelling goes down.
The fever cools.
There, where the Hartleys grew lettuce eighty years ago
bear and beaver, fox and partridge
den and nest and hunt
and are hunted. I wish I had the means
to give all the north back to itself, to let the pines
rise in the hayfield and the lilacs go wild.
But then where would we live?
I wanted that hour with you all winter—
I thought of it while I worked,
before I slept and when I woke,
a time when the tangled would straighten,
when contrition would become benediction:
the positive hour, shining like mica.
At last the wind brought it to us across the pond,
then took it up again, every last minute.