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Spring/Summer 1995, Volume 12.2

Poetry

 

Ingrid Wendt


Ingrid Wendt has coedited, with Elaine Hedges, an anthology titled
In Her Own Image: Women Working in the Arts (Feminine Press, 1980). She has also published an instructional manual, Starting with Little Things: A Guide to Writing Poetry in the Classroom (Oregon Arts Foundation Publishers).

 

Gas. 1940
     After a Painting by Edward Hopper

Perhaps you could call it nostalgia,
this vision of three pumps centered in concrete, shining
red beacons lined up at attention and
centered in clean, white concrete taking up
almost all of the bottom half of the frame,
where the attendant in long, clean, white
shirtsleeves is even more centered, and balding,
and dwarfed against a backdrop of trees receding
into darkness or maybe emerging. Sunrise. Sunset. Light
hangs in suspension and shadows are such a
gentle grey; the sky barely blue; the road
empty but not necessarily sad.

Maybe the feeling is promise,
the way I once as a student, like all
good students, each day uncovered truths so profound
I felt the world's axis tilt, bravely claiming,
"All we can count on is change," as though
no one had ever said this before, and the same
patterns would never recur. But then
who could have guessed Mobil's Pegasus
high on this mast would ever surrender
to British Petroleum? That glamorous World War Two
Rosie the Riveter stories would last month return
to prime us for war?

In this painting framed, like truth, in a time
out of time, no one is called to action, and nothing is
forgotten that hasn't yet been imagined.
TV hasn't brought more than one war
into our living rooms, nightly all the new
ways we've found to kill each other and how much
they cost, the cry "no blood for oil" unthinkable, oil
now needed to keep the pumps in this picture full forever
bleeding over a Gulf thousands of miles away.
This innocent road paved when Hiroshima
still was only a word, and Stalin a friend,
only one of our many routes into denial.
                                                                         (February 1991

 

In This Columbus Year, I Look Back on My Life
                                 
for Stephen Dow Beckham and Dell Hymes

Coming fresh to this Oregon soil the greatest thing
was to hike far from any human demand and to sit
looking over land empty of human influence far
as the eye could see—Horse Lake
catching the first rays of sun brushing between the Three
Sisters, ridge after rolling green
ridge misted in silence—or to camp
at a bend in some river large and level enough
for a tent, the simpler, we said, the better, our red
nylon parachute roped under some branch overhead and staked,
giant columbine, wide to the ground.

Twenty years old and an ocean away from my Illinois home,
more than twenty years away from tonight—learning at last
the names Kalapuya, Chinook, Takelma, rethinking counties
Clackamas, Tillamook, Clatsop, Wallowa—how easy it was to sail,
certain as morning, into a landscape no one
human could ever have witnessed before.
Not this rock, that riffle.
Not this bird song leading us on, such bounty
falling into our hands.

 

At Fort Ebey State Park, Washington: September, 1990

And though the good is weak, beauty is very strong....
And when people cease to believe that there is good and evil
Only beauty will call to them and save them
So that they still know how to say: this is true and that is false.
                                                                                 —Czeslaw Milosz


Finding the tunnel completely camouflaged
into the side of the bluff, grass growing
between gun turret emplacements
stripped flat as basketball courts and invisible
until we walked right up to them,
I didn't think about echoes,
only how long and narrow the tunnel,
and curved, and in the middle,
totally dark. 

            And winding my way
to sunlight, distant as real life
seen through a telescope turned around,
I could have been Jonah,
I could have been Giopetto, for all
the world forsaken in the steel-plated
belly of a whale, or a fairy tale, taking
comfort in faith, in ends forseeable

                                                      (this 
tunnel built fifty years back to withstand
an invasion that never did happen: inconceivable

halfway around the world our country
again preparing for war),

                                   I could have believed in salvation,
finding how long a single hum held in that ever-dark air:

                                how I could hum one tone,
then two,
then three, then four, adding
higher and higher in rapid succession
all the notes of a single full chord
resounding together. Beauty suspended
where beauty was never intended to be.
In that tunnel, leading me on, my own voice.

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