Word Poetry

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Sample Poems by Eric Torgersen



A Vacation

On the streets of Merida, beggars and vendors
of shirts and hammocks and panama hats.
We perfect our no. But there's always something
we can't help saying yes to: I want to join
these men on holiday on the ferry to Isla Mujeres,
laughing and teasing, knocking off one another's hats.
Each lays his head on the shoulder of the next
and they sleep a while together, in a row.
Then they wake up and laugh and tease some more,
pour water on the one who turns his back.

At Chichen Itza it's the cenote, the huge
natural well they must have built the city for.
Books tell us all we need about the buildings,
the almost fascist, inhuman Toltec grandeur
of the space there, but what can a book say
about the cenote which no one built?
On a clear night it would hold a lot of stars.

A lovely young girl is screaming mama! and papa!
on the ball court. Mama and Papa are cultured and rich
and their daughter's lovely name is Le-ti-ci-a.
She'll grow up a beauty, but she's only eight
years old now and everyone still loves her.
She throws rocks at her pensive, well-behaved older brother.
Next year mama will make her keep her shirt on.
The book says that virgins were thrown into the cenote.

A bus in the ditch and a semi truck on its side
that blocks the whole road, burning.
I dream in our house on the prairie we're surrounded
by Indians. It's her fault they've crept up so close!

But when I dream a madman wants to kill me,
leaves weird notes and drives his bus
full of bizarre electronics across the lawn,
when he's got me on the bus and grabs a big axe
and we wrestle and I dig my fingers into his face,
it's the face of a neighbor at home I hardly know
who came to the door once with liquor on his breath to talk.



No Dancer / Still Walking

In one of the open-air restaurants
along the beach at Progreso
three shy pretty Indian girls
danced for us with trays bottles
glasses balanced on their heads
and I picked one out I always
pick one out

Back in Merida at a juice
and licuado stand a woman
fell down was helped toward a chair
fell down again and a blind man
brought his dog to dance
for money for the crowd around a woman
who couldn't even walk

I've never been much
of a dancer at least not with anyone
looking but I can still walk
take my pick of the dancers
no blind man with cup and dog
that can dance has worked the crowd
around me yet



Memory. Snow.

Snow returns and snow
is memory,
imperfect as memory of dreams
but our only memory of wind,
of feet that circle the house
at night as we sleep.

You were still asleep
when the first of the first snow
fell, renewing the memory
of winter; I forgot my dreams
and ran in the snow, right out in the wind,
not afraid of leaving the house.

That night, in the house
again, refusing sleep,
I mocked the snow
and vaunted my own poor memory.
"The one who never dreams
of wind

will die in wind,"
you said. "His house
will be no refuge, nor will sleep;
snow on snow
will erase his memory
and even the landscape of dreams

will no longer hold his dreams;
we know that when wind dies wind
will rise again, but no house,
fallen, rises. Sleep

if you can but the snow
will return when we are just memory."

"Let the sum of all memory
equal the sum of all dream,"
I said. "All the world's wind
weighs less than the poorest house.
Dream-winds trouble every hour's sleep,
but snow is only snow is only snow."

Even in tropics we keep the memory of snow;
in dreams, night after night, we're torn from sleep
as our separate houses yield to the single wind.



In March

In the year's
new mud
we search out
every last
stick of wood.

We burned
in high winter
great logs,
their grain
and fragrance;

today
a damp,
chewed stick
is too good
for the dog

and fire exacts
rolled-up news,
last year's catalogs,
junk mail,
even books.

We burn
the chopping-block,
spread ashes
on the snow
over the garden.



The Spring the Old, the Lyric

This is the spring the old
death-dread came back,
I held it off seven good years,
politics and the Buddha;
James Wright came back,
what I knew of him,
speech, face, sweetness;
taller, from Pennsylvania,
good wife and small
reflex apologetic smile,
he sat right at our table
at the Scottish Festival;
then you came back,
you'd signed the card
in the book eight years ago
when I could just love you;
you were there for a moment,
the first morel was just there,
went on in front of my face,
a small brown lightbulb;
come back this spring,
the lyric come back,
the dead, the lovelost,
the good brown mushrooms,
the lyric
turn and returning.





Song: Moon: Follow

Moon to meaning
to moon again,

you follow me,
follow me not;

mother to morning
to memory and back,

you follow, mind
to matter to music;

song to Saturn
to song again follow,

follow me not
from field to fear;

mother to morning
to memory follow,

moon to meaning
to moon.