Literature 7-3-2006

What Light: This Week’s Poem: C. Mikal Oness

C. Mikal Oness is the fourteenth poet chosen in this once-a-week yearlong survey of Minnesota’s poets and their work. The series is sponsored by Magers & Quinn Booksellers.

C. Mikal Oness


Look at my door: in every swirl of grain
  there is an image, there is a putting on
of hats: this, here, the face of an old woman
  who knows more than just my name, and
that, the chin of an old man; look how the deep
  bend betrays his concentration; he has lived
a long time, and each morning I open all
  of his dejection and pass my ever-darkening
hands across the scold marks of his years.

At one point or another you will come
  to know one path or another, abstracted to a spray
of cross-grain hyphenations: these are a flock
  of dark birds that turns and dives at once. See?
you go with them, dreaming of your woods back home,
  thinking of your fatherland again, swearing to your
motherland again. Yes, that is the brown flag
  of your country tilted in a charge, and that, the leg
of the glorious majorette you always knew.

She is still alone, and still waits for you, her fragrance
  exactly as you remember. And she still climbs
the bluff each day . . . a girl almost . . . who once braced
  a field of poppies with long and slender arms
and folded her too tender bones upon themselves—
  to think not of ruins chiseled with forgone regrets
but of when you were lost to her and of that first
  day after, when her roses trailed their petals
on still-frosted rocks and trees that now and ever
  misintend all her love and all our loving, careless youth.

C. Mikal Oness is the founding editor and director of Sutton Hoo Press, a literary fine press producing hand-made limited editions of poetry and prose. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the University of Missouri, Oness has received the Toi Shan Fellowship from the Taoist Center in Washington, D.C. His poems have appeared in The Iowa Review, Shenandoah, The Colorado Review, Third Coast, The Bloomsbury Review, Fence, Puerto del Sol, and other magazines. His work has been awarded the Mahan Poetry Prize, an Academy of American Poets Prize, the Mary Roberts Rinehart Award from George Mason University, and a Wisconsin Arts Board Grant. His book of poems, Water Becomes Bone, was published by New Issues Press in 2000 and was awarded the Posner Prize in Poetry by the Council of Wisconsin Writers. He has a limited edition chapbook, Runian, from Bergamot Press, and another limited edition, Privilege, from Cut Away Books.