What Light: This Week’s Poem: Greg Watson

"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

Greg Watson
1Greg Watson

The Conspiracy of Names

Each name is a fabrication.
You said as much the evening we met. A woman sees a man
reading at the bus stop,
or walking stoop-shouldered through the rain
and already certain conclusions are made.

Call me, you insisted, only by what you perceive.
Even if that brings forth uncertainty,
brooding, suspicion.
For my name, like yours,
was abandoned at birth. It will take more than time for its recovery.

When we became lovers,
I learned slowly -- the subtle S of your spine,
dark calligraphy of eyes, hair, and movement. When I hold you
in the nameless hours before dawn,
that is what I call you.

When I speak your name out loud,
it is with the common understanding of conspirators,
whose stories must coincide perfectly
if they are to be believed at all.


So often I am surprised by those poems which seem to have had the most effect on readers. A poem I may feel strongly about, a “success” in my eyes, may leave another feeling cool, uninspired, or ambivalent. Likewise, a piece I may view as a virtual throwaway, shared with a friend or acquaintance on a whim, can have a great emotional impact on that person. So a good reader is essential. A good reader is also a teacher, opening doors to psyche and spirit, just as the poet has attempted to do through his or her work. Certainly I have discovered layers in my own work through the eyes of others. In this way — the stream of language and ideas flowing both ways — poetry continues to inspire and surprise both writer and reader.


Greg Watson’s work has appeared in numerous literary journals, including The Seattle Review, Sulphur River Literary Review, and Writer’s Journal. His two most recent collections are Cold Water Memory (2001) and Pale Light from a Distant Room (2004), both published by March Street Press. His latest, Things You Will Never See Again, will be published later this year. He lives in St. Paul.