POETRY February 2, 2024

Pull Focus

And after the orchard burned
the neighborhood, I moved 

through unfamiliar plots
like a wooden, clattering toy. 

My endurance was gracelessness,
so I spoke to no one, 

no-one-like. Amen?
There was no amen anymore. 

As far as no one was concerned,
amen happened somewhere colder, 

longer ago, before the new plagues
counted themselves lucky 

to have survived their seasons
of vulnerability, but after Carl, 

my family’s spaniel, mangled
a Volkswagen on Hamlet Drive. 

Then and now my brother has left me
a voicemail. He says, What you need 

needs me too. His voice a tunic catching
fire. Ancient with distance. 

Ancient, but dire. I’ll reply later, I didn’t
say but meant and still mean. 

How does time work in this poem? That’s easy.
It doesn’t. Folks, there continues 

to have been a fire, and there were
hornet nests holding up the birches 

behind what was once a doctor’s house,
and there is red dust impressed 

on my knees. Before the neighborhood,
I had a mentor who told me a poem needs 

to feel lived in, so here I am, still living,
despite having dug a head-sized hole 

in the doctor’s plot, despite having
planted myself in it upside down for a while, 

a curiosity for those not looking.

Tyler Wagner’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Quarterly West, Salt Hill, Sycamore Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin.