Uncivil

by Lesley Wheeler
Featured Art: The Trojans Pulling the Wooden Horse Into the City – Giulio Bonasone

The magnolia drops its anger pink by pink.
Eighteen-wheelers loaded with it rumble down interstates
aroused by their own dark momentum.
Cats rake claws through anger then nap on shredded upholstery.
Cables fizz high above gutters, looped and twisted, twanged by doves.
Flags snap in it. It propels the old woman and her encumbered cart.
A suburban circular. A city racket. A maritime breeze.
Some people give it away, but when they drive off
the cur of anger follows, homing unerringly.
You don’t love me, it snarls, but I will always want you.
Each cloud an anger of its own, dimming the alfalfa fields.
Some people exorcise it, smudging sage through anger’s rooms,
rinsing walls with vinegar and bleach. They claim
to have forgiven anger. Burned it off. God or Clorox granted peace.
Look, no anger here, I’m not angry, that’s not how I feel.
But you can detect the scent even on the street,
rising from his wool suit’s weave, caught in her hair, samara’s wing,
even in sighs, sick and sweet, because anger is born in the gut, feeds
on your nourishment, and you’ll never in life starve yourself clean.


Lesley Wheeler’s books include Radioland and Heterotopia, winner of the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize, and the chapbook Propagation. Her poems and essays appear in Cold Mountain Review, Ecotone, Gettysburg Review, and elsewhere, and her novel, Unbecoming, is scheduled for publication in 2020. Poetry Editor of Shenandoah, Wheeler teaches at Washington and Lee University in Virginia and blogs about poetry at lesleywheeler.org.

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