Six Poems By Dan Gerber: Narrative Magazine's Friday Feature
Narrative Magazine: Dan Gerber's poetry evokes the tenderest human yearnings, revealing moments of hope and desire. A man who has been many things--race car driver, publisher and editor, teacher--Gerber is first and foremost a soul attuned to the gift of life and the joy of sharing that awareness. In his six poems here, he explores the most important questions through the finest details.
Often my life seems like a foreign film
through which I keep glancing down at the subtitles
to see how much of what the beautiful,
sad woman on the screen is saying
reflects what the beautiful, sad woman in me
would have her say.
You know how, after it rains,
my father told me one August afternoon
when I struggled with something
hurtful my best friend had said,
how worms come out and
crawl all over the sidewalk
and it stays a big mess
a long time after it's over
if you step on them?
Leave them alone,
he went on to say,
after clearing his throat,
and when the rain stops,
they crawl back into the ground.
As I grow older, more sodden, and wedded by time
to the earth,
I spend so much more of it dreaming
of spreading out these arms
and letting all the nothing I've lived through lift away
the nothing I've spent my breath becoming.
August Afternoon: Napping in a Cabin near Ennis, Montana
Seven different shades of green
well up and reach out
and wrap their slender arms
around my shoulders and thighs.
My friend Jim asks if I have a pencil.
I realize it's only a dream,
and I'm not obliged to write it down.
I don't want to wake up yet,
to leave the tendrils I'm loving.
A horse nickers in the deep summer grass,
and I'm willing to believe--
though he stamps his foot,
and I hear the swish of it through the window--
that he's grazing in the green of my dream.
Now I hear someone trying to start
a rusty old pump-wheel,
but it turns out to be sandhill cranes
from the bog beyond the river willows.
"Do you have a pencil," he asks.
Wang Wei in His Leisure Hours
Wang . . . somehow cobbled together his career as a renowned hermit in whatever free time his office job allowed.
This tiny gentian,
so faithful to the earth in its teardrop
of honey-colored amber, bloomed
and became immortal
thirty-five million years before
anyone thought of God.
And today I read that we exist
because of a cosmic imbalance.
For a reason no one understands, the universe
contains just a little more
matter than antimatter.
Wang sought an image of a world
that fled like darkness from his lamp.
He found himself in the trees,
the grass and leaves, the river,
the fawn come to drink in
the landscape of midsummer.
Verlaine called the universe a flaw
in the purity of nonexistence;
Keats, "the vale of soul-making."
"I have such pure mornings,"
and Cafavy lamented
that "Night returns to draw us back
with its same fatal pleasure."
Wang wondered why the spring breeze
blew its scattered blossoms to his door.
Above the mountain, the day's
first cloud turns from
gray, to mauve, to gold.
He found that springtime
in a pot of wine, which
often brought with it a poem,
often carried it away
before he could write it down.
The Dark Is Always at the Top
While I waited for the waitress
to bring my iced-tea,
a fly, clinging to the body
of the saltshaker, let go,
suddenly dropped to the table
on its back, kicked
two or three of its legs
in the air and died.
Every day we bear up under
the liminal weight of air,
a million pounds and more,
in tiny increments
because we've grown used to it,
like the heat of our own blood
we remark only in a fever
or in the bodies of others.
How did Jesus picture the cup
he asked the father to take from him,
and what did St. Teresa have in mind
when she prayed to be released
from the consolations of the world?
gazing down on me,
surrounding world that will not be denied,
heart that longs to fly with
everything it loves,
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