Literature 1-22-2007

What Light: This Week’s Poem: Cass Dalglish

"What Light" presents a new poem by a Minnesota poet every week. The work is chosen by a jury of writers, publishers, and editors, and sponsored by Magers and Quinn Booksellers. Look for the anthology of What Light poems coming in February!

Cass Dlaglish


The young woman has come to tell me
about fading and wilting.
She walks barefoot on the moss that grows
between cool red stones in my garden.
When she is alone, she lets her hair sway over her shoulders and whispers
into a phone held close to her ear.
It is the wife of my son speaking about the death of devotion.

In the nursery, I step carefully
around tables of double-petaled begonias
under baskets of fuchsia impatiens
through the plum-colored grasses and pots of yellow daisies.
toward a row of white-haired women in red hats and purple dresses.
They are the docents of grief, standing tall among the lobelia and roses.

What comfort can I plant in my garden, I ask them,
when the young no longer believe in love?

White pines, they say, weeping at the top of the hill,
and below, a bed of lilies and another of peonies
sunflowers that will rise above fences in the heat of July,
sweet jasmine in pots, to be moved inside when the air grows cold.

In the small woods on the other side of the creek
there are invisibles, breathing like foxes behind the trees.
When drafts spiral through the air, I hear them sighing, “Care,”
When heat blows through the leaves, I hear them saying, “Please,”

When sunlight sprints away on the spine of the stream,
they mean to say, “water” but I hear them say, “daughter.”


I woke up one night to a moaning, howling sound that seemed to move back and forth behind my house on the eroding edges of the Colombian hills: the air was heavy with the strong smell of death, and my neighbors said it was La Llorona, wandering through the night. This chance to hear and smell mythology has driven me to seek the company of spirits, and I have become fascinated, along the way, with the fluidity of imagery in ancient language. I write both poetry and fiction. My favorite writing work: riffing the numinous.


Cass Dalglish is a former journalist who has studied Sumerian and Akkadian cuneiform in her search for the earliest of women’s writing. Her investigations have led her to write and lecture on similarities between ancient cuneiform text and hypertext. Her kinetic interpretation of Enheduanna’s Nin-Me-Sar-Ra, “Mesopotamian Blues,” was included in’s Five Minutes of Fame. Her first novel, Sweetgrass, was nominated for a Minnesota Book Award. Her second novel, Nin, was published by Spinsters Ink in 2000. Dalglish holds a doctorate in creative writing from the Union Institute and an MFA from Vermont College. She lives in Minneapolis, where she is associate professor of English and chair of Women’s Studies at Augsburg College.