Vivian Wagner – Three Poems

vivian-wagner-headshot-bwVivian Wagner is an associate professor of English at Muskingum University in New Concord, Ohio. Her work has appeared in Eyedrum Periodically, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Ilanot Review, Silk Road Review, Zone 3, and other publications. She’s also the author of a memoir, Fiddle: One Woman, Four Strings, and 8,000 Miles of Music (Citadel) and a poetry chapbook, The Village (forthcoming from Aldrich Press).


Everyone wants to hear about
planes crashing into towers,
the fall of democracies,
nuclear bombs scraping life
from the landscape like
butter off a dirty floor.
So those are the stories I tell.
No one wants to hear the smaller
prophesies: how the silhouettes of deer
will stand sentry in the early morning mist,
how the tired earth will continue to turn,
how the sugar maples will bud early
and miscellaneous suns will explode
in the spectacular, everyday glory
of lit hydrogen and empty space.
Mostly I keep these stories to myself
as I fall into stretches of dreamful sleep.
Sometimes, though, I mutter them to
wrens as I throw hard bits of seed.
They like the sound of a quiet future.


The piercing sun slides glacially
across the intense blue sky;
the Pacific waves crash
like snowflakes on the sand.
It’s August, but winter can
come any time, settling over
beaches and mothers with all the
automatic chill of goose bumps.
I watch her go further and further
into the bright, rough expanse,
swimming with sureness and grace,
numbed by beauty,
as if worry isn’t her concern,
as if she doesn’t know
water’s just melted ice.


A granite face rises above the valley,
hosting rock climbers like kamikaze pilots.
A landslide of tourists spills from campgrounds.
This park is a bridge between wild and tame,
vaccinating us against viral videos.
We come here to read the sky, to
decode the red stripes of the sunset as it
catches the mountain on fire.
Our hollow hearts fill with a
mismatched collection of
pines and bears and wonder.
The planet tilts.
Far away, a freeway rushes.
But here, our frosting breath’s a pillow,
the stars a chorus of harmonicas.
Here, fairy shrimp dart between river rocks.
And we pause to drink this heady broth,
this collection of cars and tents,
asteroids and owls,
trails and boots,
rattlesnakes and deer,
because it’s precious and strange,
because it’s the last food on earth.




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