Poems by Dallas Wiebe

Three poems from Monument: Poems on Aging and Dying.

Let’s Pretend

Each morning I arise and pretend

that I’m alive.

It’s a good way to start the day

even though the heartbeat’s a little slower,

the blood a little thinner

and the appetite fails completely.

Putting on shoes and clothes is an act of faith

that I will last out the day.

Swallowing pills is an act of trust

that my cardiologist knows what he’s doing.

Going to the bathroom

seems a waste of time.

I pretend that breakfast is nourishing.

I pretend the sun is shining.

I pretend that the clocks are working.

Nothing deters my imagination

as I sweep my porch,

collect the mail and pay my bills

As if I had all time before me

And it was just another day

out of a multitude of days.

Which it is

except each one could be my last one.

“Let’s pretend,” I say to myself,

“that I have a future.

Let’s pretend that there is much to be done

and that there is time for the doing.”

As I pretend,

I remind myself

not to buy new socks,

not to check out long books from the library

and never to buy green bananas.

Imago Dei

I’ll bet He doesn’t

take diuretics and beta blockers

for barely living through chemistry.

I’ll bet He doesn’t

walk three miles a day

to keep His blood pressure down.

I’ll bet He doesn’t

have mitral valve prolapse.

Even if He doesn’t

eat no salt,

Even if He doesn’t

eat no fat,

Even if He doesn’t

Drink no beer,

Does He have to tolerate

the frantic growth

of mysterious lumps

on His aging body?

Does He have to wash

three times a day

to delete his odors?

Does he have to guess

at words

because of eye fatigue?

I’ve never heard

that His joints

creak when He walks.

I’ve never read

that His legs

cramp when He sits.

I’ve never even dreamed

that His heart rattles

when He lies down.

Imago Dei?

Says who?

The Wonderful Circus

The foul rag-and-bone shop

of the heart

is no place to end it all.

To want to conclude a life

in waste and garbage

is hardly worth living for.

Why not end it all

in the gracious throne-and-scepter chancel

of a living God

Where old, bearded men

sit on golden thrones

and all the blessed angels

dance around in worship

and babble in all the tongues

known to man,

Where the Alpha and the Omega smile

down upon the ascending voices,

Where there is no translation

because all speak in tongues

that everyone understands?

Why not end in the New Jerusalem

where all the saints speak

lines that are immortal

and no one ever forgets anything?

Why not end on the four and twenty

golden thrones

and sing out eternity

rather than rot among rags and bones?

All scepters now accepted.

All orbs now abundant.

All crowns now donned

by all those friends

whose lives were yours,

who made a world possible,

who created the golden lamps,

the blasting trumpets and the overrunning bowls

and whose writing counted most.

No desertions for me at last.

Just celebration that I had such friends.

I want to lie down now

where all those friendships began.

I want to lie down

in the beauty of the word.

About the Author

Dallas Wiebe

Dallas Wiebe (1930-2008) graduated with degrees in English from Bethel College (1954) and the University of Michigan (M.A., 1955; Ph.D., 1960). After teaching at the University of Wisconsin, he taught literature and creative writing from 1963 to 1995 at the University of Cincinnati, where he founded the Cincinnati Poetry Review. Wiebe’s first novel was Skyblue the Badass (Doubleday/Paris Review Editions, 1969). In 1997 he published his explicitly Mennonite novel, Our Asian Journey (MLR Editions Canada). His short stories appeared in major journals, including the Paris Review. In 1978 he won the Aga Khan Fiction Prize from the Paris Review and the next year a Pushcart Prize. Burning Deck Press published four volumes of his stories: The Transparent Eye-Ball (1982), Going to the Mountain (1988), Skyblue’s Essays (1995), and The Vox Populi Street Stories (2003). Collections of his poems include minimalist works in The Kansas Poems (Cincinnati Poetry Review Press, 1987) and Christian explorations in On the Cross: Devotional Poems (DreamSeeker Books/Herald Press, 2005). The poems appearing in this issue of CMW are from Monument: Poems on Aging and Dying (Sand Hills Books), published the year he died.

– Paul Tiessen