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Best Famous David Wagoner Poems

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by David Wagoner |

At The Door

 All actors look for them-the defining moments
When what a character does is what he is.
The script may say, He goes to the door
And exits or She goes out the door stage left.

But you see your fingers touching the doorknob,
Closing around it, turning it
As if by themselves. The latch slides
Out of the strike-plate, the door swings on its hinges,
And you're about to take that step
Over the threshold into a different light.

For the audience, you may simply be
Disappearing from the scene, yet in those few seconds
You can reach for the knob as the last object on earth
You wanted to touch. Or you can take it
Warmly like the hand your father offered
Once in forgiveness and afterward
Kept to himself.

Or you can stand there briefly, as bewildered
As by the door of a walk-in time-lock safe,
Stand there and stare
At the whole concept of shutness, like a rat
Whose maze has been rebaffled overnight,
Stand still and quiver, unable to turn
Around or go left or right.

Or you can grasp it with a sly, soundless discretion,
Open it inch by inch, testing each fraction
Of torque on the spindles, on tiptoe
Slip yourself through the upright slot
And press the lock-stile silently
Back into its frame.

Or you can use your shoulder
Or the hard heel of your shoe
And a leg-thrust to break it open.

Or you can approach the door as if accustomed
To having all barriers open by themselves.
You can wrench aside
This unauthorized interruption of your progress
And then leave it ajar
For others to do with as they may see fit.

Or you can stand at ease
And give the impression you can see through
This door or any door and have no need
To take your physical self to the other side.

Or you can turn the knob as if at last
Nothing could please you more, your body language
Filled with expectations of joy at where you're going,
Holding yourself momentarily in the posture
Of an awestruck pilgrim at the gate-though you know
You'll only be stepping out against the scrim
Or a wobbly flat daubed with a landscape,
A scribble of leaves, a hint of flowers,
The bare suggestion of a garden.

by David Wagoner |

For A Row Of Laurel Shrubs

 They don't want to be your hedge,
 Your barrier, your living wall, the no-go
 Go-between between your property
And the prying of dogs and strangers. They don't

 Want to settle any of your old squabbles
 Inside or out of bounds. Their new growth
In three-foot shoots goes thrusting straight
 Up in the air each April or goes off

 Half-cocked sideways to reconnoiter
Wilder dimensions: the very idea
 Of squareness, of staying level seems
 Alien to them, and they aren't in the least

Discouraged by being suddenly lopped off
 Year after year by clippers or the stuttering
 Electric teeth of trimmers hedging their bets
To keep them all in line, all roughly

 In order. They don't even
 Want to be good-neighborly bushes
(Though under the outer stems and leaves
 The thick, thick-headed, soot-blackened

 Elderly branches have been dodging
And weaving through so many disastrous springs,
 So many whacked-out, contra-
 Dictory changes of direction, they've locked

Themselves together for good). Yet each
 Original planting, left to itself, would be
 No fence, no partition, no crook-jointed
Entanglement, but a tree by now outspread

 With all of itself turned upward at every
 Inconvenient angle you can imagine,
And look, on the ground, the fallen leaves,
 Brown, leathery, as thick as tongues, remain

 Almost what they were, tougher than ever,
Slow to molder, to give in, dead slow to feed
 The earth with themselves, there at the feet
 Of their fathers in the evergreen shade

Of their replacements. Remember, admirers
 Long ago would sometimes weave fresh clippings
 Into crowns and place them squarely on the heads
Of their most peculiar poets.

by David Wagoner |

Wallace Stevens On His Way To Work

 He would leave early and walk slowly
 As if balancing books
 On the way to school, already expecting
To be tardy once again and heavy
 With numbers, the unfashionably rounded
 Toes of his shoes invisible beyond
The slope of his corporation. He would pause
 At his favorite fundamentally sound
 Park bench, which had been the birthplace
Of paeans and ruminations on other mornings,
 And would turn his back to it, having gauged the distance
 Between his knees and the edge of the hardwood
Almost invariably unoccupied
 At this enlightened hour by the bums of nighttime
 (For whom the owlish eye of the moon
Had been closed by daylight), and would give himself wholly over
 Backwards and trustingly downwards
 And be well seated there. He would remove
From his sinister jacket pocket a postcard
 And touch it and retouch it with the point
 Of the fountain he produced at his fingertips
And fill it with his never-before-uttered
 Runes and obbligatos and pellucidly cryptic
 Duets from private pageants, from broken ends
Of fandangos with the amoeba chaos chaos
 Couchant and rampant. Then he would rise
 With an effort as heartfelt as a decision
To get out of bed on Sunday and carefully
 Relocate his center of gravity
 Above and beyond an imaginary axis
Between his feet and carry the good news
 Along the path and the sidewalk, well on his way
 To readjusting the business of the earth.