The Heroines Among Us
Will Reger’s poems find the heroines in his life, his favorite author, his friend, and grandmother. His last poem reflects the opposite of a man who is crushed by the woman he hoped to make his heroine (and wife). Read these terrific poems below!
Ode to Meta Ann
You frog-marched me out of Eden.
Raw wildness swallowed me.
All things of fire kindle or go out
but you raised in me conflagration –
It burns still.
On the morning your old tom cat left
his bloody prints across your chest,
my true self was born.
With you in the hot darkness,
when you cleaned yourself, unsure
if you were truly clean or had simply denied
the bloody sign of the Passover,
I became your devotee
with eyes open to see life
for what it is, where it is.
Your teaching has been to watch,
to catch any new thing and possess it.
Walk, wait, watch—your mantra chanted
to me that summer on Tinker Creek—
like you, “I go to water.”
I go with songbirds on my mind,
with the blue heron in my eye.
You taught me life is the stage
for the theater of death, the universe
hums along while we creep blindly behind.
You taught me how beauty and grace
are acted out all around me.
We must learn to see it, you said.
Watch and see the true things of the world.
With a voice as smooth and level as a prairie,
while skies rumble like bowling alleys,
she invited love to stay
and love has made her life a kingdom.
While the skies rumble like bowling alleys,
she claims the fealty of the birds,
for love has made her life a kingdom,
so the world breaks against her walls.
She claims the loyalty of the birds
and writes their oaths up in a poem.
Though the world breaks against her walls
she nails that poem to her garage door.
She writes a poem from the oaths of birds
and reads it out for the foxes and bears.
Though the world breaks against her walls,
she bears no regrets at all.
While reading her poem to foxes and bears,
two princesses weave their paths away.
She bears no regrets at all.
Their absence sparks anticipation.
Two princesses weave paths away,
but she knows paths someday converge.
Their absence sparks anticipation,
when stars decline to come closer.
She knows that paths someday converge.
And she does have poetry and birds,
though the stars refuse to come any closer,
princesses oft times return.
Portrait of a Grandmother
Heavy and slow, her heart
carries so much she must
vouch a little into each
of the flowers she tends,
just to take another step.
Her long grey-brown hair
is done up into a bun,
held in place with combs.
She used to have a cow
in her shed, but now
it is piled with blue glass jars.
Every morning before coffee
she shoots insulin into the fat
of her ribs, then pours
from a cup of hot Sanka
into the saucer to cool, then sips.
I follow behind her when she tills
her big garden beyond the oaks,
with a hoe breaking up the clots.
The sun is hot and the shade is cool
under the trees. She keeps on.
I love forking out the potatoes
best of all–like opening a surprise.
She calls them taters and mashes
them thick to her hold her gravy.
At her big rough-hewn table,
we sat and ate like kings — eggs,
mashed taters, slices of canned meat,
fried chicken, blackberry dumplings,
squirrel or rabbit if she shot one,
and the perfect flour biscuits
that still make me salivate to this day.
Where are those hands of hers
that did so much? Lost now
among the stones of a country
cemetery overrun with trees
that I will never find again,
though I’ve been there. I still see it.
A Valentine Breakup
Starlight that night made its own rules,
and the girl, well-guarded by scent of asphodels,
understood there is no love in heartbeats,
for Badger’s fulvous heart soliloquies
uncoiled from a nest of fear and cantillation,
a great deception, a trick of indecision.
The gentleman, sore of heart, saw it all
in her eyes out in the corridor.
It nearly put him in the hospital
to see his twilight fall at twenty-four,
to see marrying, fathering, house-holding
all walk off together, the scene folding–
Strike the set! Kill the rain! Release
the dogs to clear the lot of any heroines.
Old Badger’s closing it down — “It’s time, please.”
And so he has come to this, ready to zero in,
Move back in with his folks, maybe, and get a cat,
or leave the country, however it plays out.
Will Reger is the Poet Laureate for the City of Urbana, IL. He has published consistently since 2010, including his first full-length book, Petroglyphs (2019). Many of his published works have been linked at www.twitter.com/wmreger. When not scribbling, he relaxes with the nan xiao and enjoys studying small local waterways (sloughs, creeks, rivers, canals, and ditches) looking for wildlife.
I have attached these poems because the email distorts the line breaks.