Nebraska Center for Writers

ANTONIO MACHADO AND THE TREES
Baeza 1915
by Miles Waggener

The poet is eavesdropping on the sycamores
at dusk. They talk with the copper light, the wind
they trap with long, knotted fingers —
their shapes racing against the chipped walls
of the village where he has banished himself at forty
to live with his mother, now that his child bride
has been two years in the grave. In the light
and chatter of the trees, the poet is resolved
to die teaching children French,
to live out what’s left, years shipwrecked in a sea
of smoldering olive groves, the small pleasures
of regular verbs and nightfall in rural Spain.
He has only to read the gossip of the trees,
their talk of the lost bride. Leanor, they say, how fragile
she was when they married, and how consumption
riddled her away from him. The sycamores know
there was so little left of her that he secretly wanted
to carry her coffin like a guitar case
against his chest, with neither company nor ceremony,
all the way to the grave. As the day fades, the trees
mutter in their ranks before the last light leaves them.
The conversation is over. The poet, ashamed,
exposed on his hill, shivers
among the silent arches, the dark plaza,
where lions bite down on the brass rings of the doors.

Reprinted with permission
from Willow Springs
Copyright © 2006
by Miles Waggener


EQUULEUS
by Miles Waggener


Moonrise, Wukoki, 1999

Without garden they woke to impulse, were
poorly suited to surfaces that shunned

their strides. If it was cold, they exhaled storms
if it hailed on them, they stormed back cutting

themselves, cutting in half the night they let
pass beneath their gait, only to join it

again transformed, no less inhospitable
as any underworld of our making,

thunder cells of first steps retold in the
painted skies of their skin. Saddled without

rider, moonrise blinding Cassiopeia's
Chair before another turn, we say now

that the horse followed us to the ruins,
that crater-scarred worlds shifting in haunches

as she walked were ours, that four winged fruits, wing-
like bracts of saltbush, were radiant as

if she knew what we in our telling
never arrive at. We lay where roofless

walls opened to the sky, where the dead were
buried in floors, perhaps the bones of a

child holding us in place, row upon row
of stones ending in stars. She had come so

far, this mare who lowered her head into
fields of one seeded fruits that do not split.

Winds went on sharpening rock back to earth.
As if waking for the first time into

our lives, we were luminous, honed with her,
and into this world, we woke as strangers.

Reprinted with permission
Copyright © 2006
by Miles Waggener


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