By Tim Wenzell

Shoes (Global Warming Version)

A true woman evacuates with her shoes
and makes certain that all of them,
wrapped in garbage bags,
fill the trunk so that
he will take the back seat with his things
(whatever they might be).

The Artimus River
broke two dams and the St. Sebastian walls
with their ivy, their moss, and their history,
and dropped them to the sludgy bottom.
The mud rose in clumps and fell along the banks
like vanished turtles,
dotting the shorelines when the rain let up
and producing some kind of landscape:
torn chunks of houses, diminished chimneys,
and brown wet sofas
falling back into earth

They will never build here again–
and in a thousand years, or maybe five hundred,
(or maybe tomorrow)
when the oceans converge into a thick salt sludge
filling like a hardening glue
into the spaces that are left
a true woman will open her trunk
and pick out the right shoes
for the occasion.

Further Notes on the Spiders of New Guinea

Do invertebrates dream?
For example,
does the Brain Coral dream
it is a human brain
inside a skull, looking out
through land-rooted eyes at
a world beyond
the bottom of its sea?

What about the Bay Ghost Shrimp
dreaming of being real?
or the Aggregating Anemone
wishing in sleep to finally be calm?

What about the Cave Cricket
chirping in its sleep for daylight?
or the Missouri Millipede
walking upright in a dream
on just two legs?

Does a House Spider drift off
after the lights have been turned down?
Where to? The deep forest where lights
never click on, where webs are
never swept away by brooms?

In the deep sleep of an earth
alive with everything,
I would like to think that house spiders
can weave webs that rise
into the upper canopies of rain forests,
fabulous filaments so graceful and long
that they disappear into Whitmanesque infinity:
no tears, no slamming of doors, no shouting,
no brooms, no lights to go down.

Instead, it is a party of the living,
day and night, with the company of other dreamers:
The ant colonies marching in, the beetles crawling home,
the crescendo of the crickets, loud and long,
and the dark, iridescent and beautiful spiders,
massed together with webs open and
lying in wait for everything to awaken.

Here For the Food

My grandfather left my father’s family
In the middle of a cold night in 1933.
He said he was going out for coal.
That was two years ago
and on the day I turned twelve:

Now, I am the man of the house and we must eat,
so I am here for the food.
I understand your mother died, and I feel for that.
She must have been a wonderful woman, raising such mourners.
I see her there up at the altar in her fancy box
So I will file in line and cry for her with you.

But I really need your reception
More than anything.
You will have a spread, after all.
I brought my pants with the large pockets
To fill with finger foods
while I fill your world with lies
about how I knew her:
Yes, I will say between bites, she was like a mother to me.
And if you knew the truth instead of the lie I have provided,
You would understand why I am taking your little sandwiches.

I saw my father again yesterday.
Gaunt and out of a car,
He walked across the baseball field
And handed me a dollar bill
While I stood on second base.

But I did not know that I had seen him
Until I went home and described a shadow-stranger to my mother.
She handled the dollar in her hands, unsure of where to pass it.
But I am a man and I can rise above her trembling
and her stare into space, and I will use that dollar if she doesn’t.

I check the obits, and another rich one has died,
this time an old man down on Devoe.
So here I will be again, working up a good cry,
getting ready again to tell someone in a line
and in the back pew of the church
about their beautiful grandfather who helped me
fund and find my way.

Someone Seven

 I am crying:
my cat Speckles has been hit by a truck,
thrown into underbrush by rolling tires,
and I am standing in the roadside dust
watching the truck disappear into a wall of thick air.
And where are my mother and father?

I am six and angry. They have just told me
that I can’t watch the Flintstones
because I will stay awake and stare at my ceiling
and have bad dreams about a barefooted Fred
locked outside by the cat all night.

I am seven now, not six,
no longer worried about Fred knocking
for Wilma, not after the non-cartoon cat I hold in my hands
looks into space and knows
that someone seven and crying, or six and angry,
won’t be able to save it.
And where are my mother and father?

This is the windiest day I remember:
The dirt arrives in little tornadoes at my feet and
a cold invisible wall pushes against me
and my suddenly still Speckles
locked inside my arms
on the side of the road.

The light disappears.
Fred won’t wait out there forever–
Wilma will open the prehistoric door,
stop his shouting, allow him to finally lay down
on his stone bed and sleep, and in the morning
I can bury Speckles on the opposite side of the pool.
But where are my mother and father with the shovel?


She ran into herself
like a parakeet into a hall mirror
and couldn’t fly for a while,
she of the missing make-up,
absent of pointed shoes mounted on racks
hanging from her closet door–
no fabrics hanging on wooden poles in veils of plastic,
confronted instead with a tape of her own voice

screaming at some hour, scream
that seeped through walls
and under doors, woke neighbors
and deluded her from beauty.

About the Author:

I am widely published, including a novel, twenty short stories, and many poems in literary journals, as well as scholarship in the area of Irish ecocriticism, including a book (and another forthcoming),  and many articles in peer-reviewed journals. I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Languages and Literature at Virginia Union University in Richmond, VA.