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READ LOCAL First: Maximilian Werner

maximilian wernerSUNDAY 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)



The Occidents


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

EvolvedBased 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.

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