We are pleased to present our next Poet to Notice: Vivian Wagner.
We hope you enjoy these 3 poems as much as we did.
On Doing Yoga in the Basement
of the United Methodist Church
on High Street
The peeling Thomas Kinkade border,
with its fairy tale houses lit from within,
has a certain prana,
as does the on-and-off air conditioner,
the indoor-outdoor carpet,
the dust-smudged windows,
level with the parking lot.
Every day is a new day,
our instructor says,
and we thank God or whatever deity
or accident of physics made this so.
We Warrior II and Tree our way through
tiredness, through broken fuel pumps,
through student grade complaints
and unpaid bills.
Child Pose is always a relief,
with its admission of vulnerability,
of stiff muscles stretched beyond
We haven’t read The Bhagavad Gita,
but we understand this:
Curving back within myself
I create again and again.
When we finally get to Corpse Pose,
we lie supine,
trying to do as she says and
let it all go.
We consider the pockmarked ceiling tiles,
sloping yet functional,
like our own worn bodies.
We relax our foreheads and jaws
and fingertips and hamstrings.
Soon we’ll leave this space
beneath pews and hymnals
and drive back into the turbulent fray,
but for now we like not moving.
We like having nothing to do
but repose so close to death
we finally feel alive.
People in these parts collect bricks,
trading them like baseball cards,
displaying them at festivals.
running fingers along oxidized swirls
as distinct as fingerprints,
reading factory marks
embossed on vitrified clay:
Metropolitan, Athens, Peebles,
Nelsonville, Townsend, Trimble.
They speak of
bricks in the wild,
And they inspire me
to look for the first time
at my own pile of cast-off bricks,
heedlessly inherited from previous owners.
I use them to segment oregano from dill,
to direct the flow of water from a drainpipe,
practical uses befitting bricks.
Now, though, I study them for the first time.
CLAYCRAFT, they declare in blocky print,
referring, I learn, to factories long closed,
to beehive kilns in Gahanna and Shawnee razed,
to bricks scattered, returning to earth.
Not the most valuable, I learn,
but not valueless, either.
I find myself more reverential,
wondering at the alchemic blaze of their firing,
at the oracular history that carried them here.
Such is the power of a name, spoken.
A spirit, caught and released.
Advice for My Daughter’s Best Friend
as She Leaves for College
Remember San Francisco,
when the two of you rode
off on rented bikes,
navigating a torrent of traffic
as if you owned the city,
while I watched, worried,
hoping you did?
And how in New York
you walked crowded streets,
exploring shops and cafés,
not getting lost,
while I waited, anxious,
on a grimy corner
until you returned?
How you paddleboarded the sound,
cutting through glassy water,
while I stood on shore, afraid you’d
fall off, even though
I knew you wouldn’t?
That’s you, now, and that’s me.
I don’t have any advice for you,
really, as you leave.
The advice is for me:
remember those times.
Remember how you laughed, kindly, at my fears.
Remember how avenues and clerks and
trails and waves greeted you as friends.
And remember, finally, how you always
manage to make the world your home.
Vivian Wagner is an associate professor of English at Muskingum University in New Concord, Ohio. Her work has appeared in Silk Road Review, The Ilanot Review, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Creative Nonfiction, The Atlantic, Narratively, and other publications. She’s also the author of a memoir, Fiddle: One Woman, Four Strings, and 8,000 Miles of Music (Citadel-Kensington). Visit her website and follow her on Twitter @vwagner.