Eileen Mattmann


She felt it was only right
she should know the names
of all the living beings in her garden

columbine   lobelia   indigo bunting
forsythia   a mark of respect
gratitude for the pleasure they gave
Northern harrier   ligularia

but they were unaware of the labels
she proffered   carefully committed
to memory   What was it to them
the syllables she uttered in greeting

mother   daughter   lover   friend   she
called them by name

their lives named and unknowable
as the oaks

• • •


Nightly, winged bodies bump into
the screen of the window alongside
the chair in my study, buzzing and
banging, trying to get in, away
from the dark, attracted perhaps
by the warm yellow sun of my lamp,
the seemingly peaceful mood of the
room filled with objects beyond
their puny perception, and me, sitting
large and god-like within. Now
and then, silence, then a redoubling
of effort until the quiet of night
is restored once again.

In the same way imagine winged
souls that arrive at the window
of heaven, wherever it is, whatever
it is, escaped from the dark to the
warmth of the light; we throw our
translucent forms against it, bruising
what faith we have tucked up our
sleeves, hoping someone is there to
take pity, to open the window to this
vast unimaginable, and let us fly in.

• • •

Guernica, 2015

It is always the same, astounding
in its regularity, demanding
entry into normality, the anguished
mouths agape and turned to heaven
to plead for what?

As part of this panorama of the fallen,
we cradle our dead, clutch the ripped
and torn to our breasts–we fell like birds–
our broken weapons like water
or breath before the bombs and bullets.
Executioners, sated for that instant,
then move on.

It is the punishment for living, meeting,
eating out, going to the theater, screaming
in the stands, attending school, walking
in our neighborhoods. Nightmare faces
pulse out from the walls of night, stretched
like latex, overcome, engulfed by
thudding hooves of the apocalypse,
the feet of bulls
shattering glass.

Above it all, the eye
of light, all-seeing, enlightened, still bright
though we look up only in times
of trouble, unwilling, unable
to live in wisdom day to day. What else
if we are to escape descent
to the damned? What else but to practice
mere hope, the best
rejoinder we have.

• • •
Eileen MattmannEileen Mattmann’s poetry has appeared in the 2017 Calendar from the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets and in the online journal, Portage Magazine. She is a retired elementary school teacher and lives in Wisconsin.