Literature 7-16-2007

What Light: This Week’s Poem: Cary Waterman

"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 on line.

mna logo


for Lew Holden

Your wife had left you post-diagnosis
yet here you were this night stumbling on fire
with dance and blood,
a retired high school Spanish teacher,
now learning the new syntax
of multiple sclerosis.
It burned from your hands and feet,
the castanets, the dark mole
on the flamenco dancer’s cheek,
All the broken stomping, clapping,
duende of dark.

We stumbled into the lighted lobby
where you grabbed my friend and me,
said we must all go now,
tonight, for roja, for wine,
for the dance and the darkness.

But we sad women demurred
to the rain in our hearts,
afraid of the blood call.
We scurried like mice into hoods, coats,
another night we promised.
But it would not come again.
I knew then that I had
been called, chosen,
and all these years have remembered only
what it was like not to go.


This poem was written thirty years after the experience took place. I wanted to acknowledge and honor Lew Holden, the man to whom the poem is dedicated. I have a fantasy that wherever he is, he will see this poem and remember that night and accept my regretful apology for not seizing the moment. Lorca writes eloquently and quite persuasively about moments such as this one. He defines it as duende, an inspiration, a magic, a fire. He says: duende is a power and not a behavior, it is a struggle and not a concept…it is not a matter of ability, but of real live form; of blood; of ancient culture; of creative action. These are the moments we live for.


Cary Waterman 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.