by What Light: This Week's Poem
January 7, 2008
Read this week's winning poem, "The Mice" by Cary Waterman, selected by What Light judge, Leslie Adrienne Miller
For the Greeks, who had no word for irreversible death, one did
not die, one darkened.
Where the Japanese iris right
now stand ready to
accept the inevitable
she found four dead mice
in their nest of dirt and dusty fur
all with their small ears pointed like pilgrims
toward the trunk of the huge cottonwood.
What happened here?
Cat? Owl? Dog? A silent disease?
Or had they just frozen one night as the air
on their bodies fell back to winter?
Their dusk bodies were soft as she picked them up
unsure of whether to leave them buried where they would
melt back into earth, first fur, then intestine,
vertebra, and finally small pocket of skull.
She put a rock over them but came back later,
removed them to a black plastic bag, afraid
of something, some disease, that the cat
would chew on them, get sick, maybe die.
Now where the grave was there is a space
in the clump of iris, a darkness, an open mouth.
In this poem I think of the dead mice as messages from the Great Mystery. Inexplicably dark and silent, they haunt our dreams and our waking, giving truth to the paradox which is spring. Mice, because of their diminuitiveness, call us to pay attention to the smallest things.
is the author of When I Looked Back You Were Gone
(Holy Cow! Press), The Salamander Migration
(University of Pittsburg), First Thaw
(Minnesota Writers Publishing House), and Dark Lights the Tiger’s Tail
(Scopecraft Press). She co-edited the anthology, Minnesota Writes: Poetry
(Milkweed Editions). Her own poems have appeared in the anthologies, A Geography of Poets, Woman Poet:The Midwest, The Logan House Anthology of 21st Century American Poetry
and Poets Against the War
. She has poems forthcoming in The Blue Earth Review, The Great River Review, Cutthroat,
and The Minnesota Women’s Poetry Anthology
. She has spent time at the MacDowell Colony and at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Ireland. Her writing awards include Bush Foundation Fellowships, Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowships, and the Loft-McKnight Award of Distinction in Poetry. She teaches at Augsburg College and at Normandale Community College.
Image (top) What Light poetry anthology (jacket art by James Michael Lawrence). "What Light: This Week's Poem,” sponsored by Magers and Quinn Booksellers, brings you a poem every week by a Minnesota poet, selected by a panel of writers and publishers. Look for our anthology, “What Light,” at Magers and Quinn in Uptown or online.