Poem of the Week | November 08, 2011

This week we’re excited to feature a poem by David Wagoner from our current issue, 34.3. Wagoner was born in eastern Ohio, grew up between Gary and Chicago, and has lived in or near Seattle since 1954. A professor of English emeritus at the University of Washington, he has also published ten novels, one of which, The Escape Artist, was made into a movie by Francis Ford Coppola in 1982.  He won the Lilly Prize in 1991, six yearly prizes from Poetry over the years, and in 2011 the Glenna Luschei Prize from Prairie Schooner and, from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Arthur Rense Award for “continued excellence over a long career.”  He still teaches at Hugo House in Seattle and in the low-residency MFA program at the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts on Whidbey Island.

A Logical Proposition to His Coy Companion Outside a Tropical Beach Cabana

Here on the shelf of a continental platform
we’re lying on sand in a swash of wind while combers
pound at our feet, pound on insoluble quartz,


which takes on waves by simply
giving in, taking any old drop of water
and wheeling it up and around


and down again where all of them more or less
came from in the first place.  Dear companion,
every cubic mile of ocean is holding


trillions of pounds of salt, thirty billion
dollars in gold and silver, enough raw life
to start another planet.  So think of us


logically.  The wind, the sand, and the breakers
landing on terrigenous ooze—what are they
worth to us who look and listen briefly?


They have all the time they can squander to come apart
and come together again, but you and I
are fires in a frigid world.  No matter where


we hide them, they slip away
from all our interiors and surfaces
to the tune of the old Second Mother-in-law


of Thermodynamics—Struggle to keep your heat
from going somewhere colder.  Shouldn’t we go
out of this wind to a seabed of our own?