On October 12, three inches of snow draped the broad shoulders of our white pine like a moth-eaten shawl. Three inches of snow covered the lush green lawns of summer across the Twin Cities. Three inches of snow were the most to have collected here this early since 1977. For much of the citizenry, this was a near disaster, a cruel reminder of things to come. In short, it was downright terrible, but terrible is such a lovely word.
I suppose there really isn’t a bad word, a word without qualities, so in a sense all words are wonderful. But as Mr. Orwell might have said, some words are more equal than others. We all have our favorites and those that go unloved based on our unique palette of beliefs, hang-ups, interests, and eccentricities. A friend of mine loathes the word slacks and will break out in a sweat at the mere utterance of ointment. The more equal words work as poetry works, first suggesting one thing and then another. They resemble a rope ladder hung from the top branch of a tall oak tree.
Thanks to Dara Wier, we have “The Terrible Poem,” which can be found in Conduit #20. Since 1977, when her first book came out, Ms. Wier has written eleven books of poetry including her new and highly anticipated Selected Poems. To the delight of all who’ve kept up with her prodigious output, Wier’s poems keep getting better and better. From line to line, they surprise and startle, they yearn and crack wise, they disarm and console. Often kaleidoscopic in nature, Wier’s poems are fearless—not reckless—not to be different but to be true.
Several years ago, I had the pleasure of accompanying Dara and James Tate to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Afterward we wandered over the Ashbery bridge, which spans the interstate separating the garden from a city park. On the park side we found a couple cooking salmon over a campfire. A sight I had never seen before or since. It was one of those charmed moments when the unexpected blesses you with its occurrence, and by doing so it enlivens you, much like a Wier poem.
-- William Waltz Love lives just sit there on the sidelines.
The Terrible Poem
I’ve never told a soul what it is I believe.
Things never will never stop getting stop more stop long stop, ago.
Everything material in theory is able to cast a shadow.
Everything’s shadow is a different shade of black with violent overtones.
If someone says a sheep is nothing but a big box of mittens
I don’t think it will enable me to sleep better tomorrow.
The girl placed a cocoon in a glass jar too small for what emerged.
I placed a hermit crab near by, next to, a fire.
We look for something beautiful and do unmendable damage.
I have a clear memory of something I’m sure hasn’t happened.
It’ll take a while to drag the freaks away from their cribs.
Hey baby, say a while will you while will you while will you.
That is our lullaby, that is our unnamable anthem, you are catgut.
Love lives just sit there on the sidelines.
-- Dara Wier
-- Dara Wier