SUNDAY BLOG READ is your glimpse into the working minds and hearts of Utah’s literary writers. Each month, 15 Bytes offers works-in-progress and / or recently published work by some of the state’s most celebrated and promising writers of fiction, poetry, literary non-fiction and memoir.
Today, 15 Bytes features Salt Lake City-based Maximilian Werner, an author and UofU professor. Here he provides two poems, part of his collection Cold Blessings which won 2nd place in the 2014 Utah Original Writing Competition.
Sunday Blog Read continues to accrue a distinguished group of established and emerging Utah writers for your review and enjoyment.
So curl up with your favorite cup of joe and enjoy the work of Max!
Meditations on the Panicum Grass
Tonight, resting here on this hill
I haven’t seen in years,
something’s gone out of me. But it was there
before the curve on Canyon Road,
in the knobby hum of the Yamaha
as it knocked lightless against night
on a trip to pimp beer and cigarettes.
It was in the mink farm
below the reservoir, in the eyes
that met me from cages,
in my friends who held sticks,
who knew the way in,
who picked cages near the door . . .
They said to be ready when they opened,
when the mink’s eyes would sting with light,
our bodies would diminish and he’d come.
Sometimes I’d hear it between words
a girl wheezed at the bus stop
on November mornings,
or in the panting of dogs
through broken slats,
in muffled zippers and lake ice
bunching up at night . . . and in the hisses
from the mink’s stained mouth.
Something’s gone out of me. But I saw it
in the outline of a man
painted beneath a tree
in Bedford, and on my brother’s face
when he kissed his girlfriend
in her casket, and on her face,
and on a road that led to an accident.
I saw it in my mother’s hand
when she wrote my name
in the hospital ledger,
and in the fissure of a Dalmatian’s skull.
It was what I felt watching windows
closing in a house across the field,
where later I stooped to spy
the horsy nakedness of a girl
my sister’s age. What I felt
when the panicum grass sagged
in July, when I asked
to identify the body of a boy
because I was there
and chances were I knew him.
I knew the want . . .
Of deep water and an empty bed.
Of skin cooled by vinegar.
Of new shoes.
What I should have said but didn’t.
What I did say.
Of lies and the hours it took to think of them.
The mink farmer and the man standing
in porch-light with his shotgun.
Of spooked horses heading for barbed wire
and his failure to stop them
as I laid low in the barn rafters,
heart-throated, hoping he had sons.
(Originally appeared in the Sierra Nevada College Review)
I never thought my father was a man
who knew horses until we stood inside
my uncle’s corral, early eyed, thinking
if we were horses we would like now
to be let out on the land, dewy and limbed
with algarroba and dark mata bush.
When he teetered the beam
that kept them in, the horses scared
down a road, their hinds slick as blocks
cut from the sea quarries, a peach sweat
beading their noses the soft of salt water,
and the two of us ran behind them,
doing all we could to seem human.
(Originally appeared in Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art)
Copyright, Maximilian Werner, 2014
Based in Salt Lake City, Maximilian Werner is the author of three narrative nonfiction books, including Gravity Hill, Evolved, Black River Dreams as well as the novel Crooked Creek. Information about them can be found here.
Past featured writers in 15 Bytes’ Sunday Blog Read: Katharine Coles, Michael McLane, Darrell Spencer, Larry Menlove, Christopher Bigelow, Shanan Ballam, Steve Proskauer, April Wilder, Calvin Haul, Lance Larsen, Joel Long, Lynn Kilpatrick, Phyllis Barber, David Hawkins, Nancy Takacs, Mike Dorrell, Susan Elizabeth Howe, Star Coulbrooke, Brad Roghaar and Jerry Vanleperen.