The Imperishable Life of Poems


By Megan Wheeler

This year I vow not to write poetry
although I have just read a poem
in which each thing—a rubber band
a pair of geese, a glass of vodka
radio static—is depicted as a woman
or a girl or a boy or a man.

At seventeen I ceased to pray.
I don’t recall what I did with my rosary beads
which I would describe as a woman
or perhaps a man. A boy
was someone I assumed I would mother.

Poems were generally men
I did not understand—though there is one
I have come to know by heart. Speeding into a collision
with a car on my bike I might say
“let us go then you and I.”
And the rain was a woman
or a little girl or many children playing dress up.

Mary Oliver
is a poet who wrote
“you only have to let the soft animal
of your body love what it loves.”
I think she may be right
although I cannot say what it is for girls
whose fathers have visited their beds.

My grandfather
did not visit the beds
of his two eldest daughters
though my mother emerged from childhood
clothed in the scent of hay
and engine oil and another scent
no child should be made to wear.

An adolescent girl
is a structurally unsound roof
that collapses abruptly
moments after the cedar waxwings
drunk on fermented chokecherries
cast themselves against the plate glass windows.

Stars are little girls without mouths whispering
“listen.”

The wind is a woman
who cannot love her daughters
and the pines are the men
she consorts with.

Night
is all genders of the living
lovingly stroking the white bones
of their dead.

Death is a young woman
who baked cupcakes
for children.

A poem
is unconditional love. 


Megan Wheeler was born on the Salish/Kootenai Indian reservation in 1961. She has spent the last seven years as a sex-offender therapist and recently transitioned to the field of substance abuse. She lives in Eugene, Oregon with her husband, George, their two dogs, Charlotte and Sam, and their cat, Pippin. 

This is her first publication.