Relativity and Other Poems

William Wenthe





As if anything ever means anything

alone: these words come sudden to mind—

“out of nowhere”—that place in the brain

the self empties into as it moves,

that great cave, that vacuum, that bin, that been.

It’s this fret of leaving, how it cleaves

to me, even as we cleaved to each other last night;

our coming together freighted, fraught,

making what seemed a long, sweating argument

against all dying.  I’ll get this way, lunging

against work and duties, as this time of year

birds will, too—a clinging, a solemn mass

of parting—or so I’m reading that queen-anne’s-lace

of snow geese on the field, that dark twister

of blackbirds rising above a feedlot. 

US 82, west of Lubbock—the broken lines

of highway plunging toward me, back to you.






These Things

                        Proverbs 30:18-19


Blackbirds flow

to river reeds

where voices bend them

towards each other

in red-winged

dusk, winter’s

downward pull.

As we approach,

the near ones curl

in waves away

to the opposite shore,

and another shore

of thought—the mind

of species.  Flocks

of teal and mallard,

the high and shapely

flight of cranes—

each collective

wing of V

a scarf that lilts

from an invisible throat

in self-made wind.

Touching hands,

we bend our voices

toward each other

among these things

we know not:

blackbird, crane,

mallard, teal;

man and woman,

the ways within.





Cool evening falls, dark manna

on this half-desert land.  Yet I run

the air conditioner, because

the house baked all day,

trapping the heat inside;


and I dare not open the windows,

since tonight they're spraying

the town for mosquitoes again:

a hardy breed that harbors

an ugly strain of virus.


After nightfall they cruise

the streets—official pickups

with flashing lights, machine-gun

apparatus mounted on the bed,

firing its gas automatically.


In bed, I read about a war

in Africa, in a magazine loaded

with hip journalism, where the author

is a character, narrating like a pulp

novel—and I'll be damned


if I'm not entertained: Tribal

Warfare Meets International

Arms Trade, as pickups

bristling with boys and AK-47's

roam shell-pocked streets


where anything's for sale,

and certain characters named Drought

and Famine enter like figures

in an allegory one half of which—

the meaning half—is missing.


And underneath the reading,

I'm waiting for the engine,

the yellow flash.  In the war zone,

the journalist is down to his last

hundred dollar bill.


I turn off the light.  I'm safe

in a town where we burn

coal to cool ourselves in the cool

evening we can't breathe

for roving trucks, plying

their smoke across our lawns.


William Wenthe has poems forthcoming in Poetry, Ontario Review, Tin House, Ninth Letter, and other journals. His second book, Not Till We Are Lost (LSU 2004), also won the Best Book of Poetry Prize from The Texas Institute of Letters; his first book is Birds of Hoboken (Orchises 1995; reprinted 2003). He teaches creative writing and modern poetry at Texas Tech University.  You can learn more about Mr. Wenthe at


Photo Courtesy of morgueFile.


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Poems Copyright © 2006 William Wenthe. All rights reserved.