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Sample Poems by Donald Wheelock

Her Lab Report
What about the atoms, cells and molecules
drives chaos into miracles of order?
As if analysis—that after-fact
reductionist of tiny wars declared—
can tell us anything but more and more
of what’s to come, of pain, disfigurement,
the hauling into life of metaphor
meant, like the boils of Job, to make a show
of what no human’s meant to understand.
A plea of mercy is irrelevant;
the symptoms tell us what we need to know,
unless a brief exam, before the blood
reveals, instead of bound-up certainties,
the miracles of habitual human error.
Mistakes! I’ve never longed for something more!
First Solo Drive at Night, Post Surgery
I’ll watch you leave the house, your maiden trip
an inspiration by the winter fire;
I’ll stand watch by the kitchen door, admire
your firm resolve, your mock stiff upper lip,
the poise with which you stock your purse
with tissues, find your keys, your charging phone,
and walk the short way to the car alone.
These and other details I rehearse,
if only to myself: the first time driving,
especially at night, challenging enough—
my thoughts leave off, return to your arriving.
A daughter you could be, your stage in life
youth’s next threshold—but no, you are my wife.

Were I to touch with magic power
the line dividing life from death,
adding to the time I have
the nanosecond of an hour,
I’d turn the limit of my days
from final breath to asymptote,
adding thus eternal hope
of dodging death’s insistent gaze.
But therein lies the rub: I’d spend
nano- after nanosecond,
death so near yet out of reach,
I’d long for my long life to end,
the limit serving to define
its end extended once again!
No. Cancel magic: when it comes
to cheating death I draw the line.

Catch and Release
A mouse’s foot is not an ugly thing,
the one that reaches for the kitchen air
beyond the confines of its plastic trap.
To catch and then release—a brief affair—
and cleaner, kinder than the bait and snap
of last year’s wooden block, cheese bits, and spring.
But now I have to heave him in the snow,
exchanging his adoptive heat for cold.
He crouches on the lawn, a tiny sphinx.
Of cold, I’d guess, and only cold, he thinks.
Where…or even whether he will go?
I turn away, the universe on hold.

When my father made me scrambled eggs
I was surprised to see him set them down
before me with such pride. I’d rarely seen
him cook, or, thinking of it now, enjoyed
the man alone. Was hosting, then, for him
as new as staying overnight for me,
a boy, refusing, still, to understand
the rift that made this visit necessary?
I doubt I even thanked him for the eggs.
The toast—why, even I could butter toast—
was burned a little bit around the edge—
“Just the way I like it,” I might have said,
though silence was more comfortable that day.
I learned to cook for my kids just this way.