Literature 10-8-2007

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. Look for our anthology, “What Light,” at Magers and Quinn in Uptown or on line.

greg Watson


Found your name and number slipped
seamlessly between The Waning of the Middle Ages
and Rexroth’s Sacramental Acts –– a relic
rediscovered after years in hiding,
the small, thin paper yellowed
as a nicotine stain with age,
the heart-shaped stencil ragged round
the edges and fading. I cannot now bring you forth
from this lifetime of otherness.
Your face becomes the face of distance,
a landscape concealed
behind layers of years and neglect,
your laughter indiscernible.
I speak your name
out loud, its music both foreign and familiar,
the way any prayer or blasphemy
endlessly repeated becomes
neither, only the truth of the sound itself.
It is in this place we may yet meet, speaking openly
of all we failed to cultivate
in the bright memory of the unknown
that was meant for us all along.


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 Poetry East. His most recent poetry collections are Pale Light from a Distant Room and Things You Will Never See Again, both published by March Street Press. His latest, The Distance Between Two Hands, will be published in early 2008. He lives in Saint Paul.