John Walser


John Walser, an associate professor of English at Marian University in Wisconsin and a founding member of the Foot of the Lake Poetry Collective, holds a doctorate in English and Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous journals, including Barrow Street, Nimrod, The Pinch, december magazine, Naugatuck River Review, Fourth River, the Hiram Poetry Review, Packingtown Review, and Bird’s Thumb. He was a featured poet in September 2014 at Connotation Press: An Online Artifact. A Pushcart nominee as well as a semi-finalist for the 2013 Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, John is currently submitting three manuscripts for publication.


Nothing Howls

Nothing howls
in the before daybreak meadow.

Nothing thrashes.

The moon, a temple orange
low large on the horizon
rough skinned
waits sour for morning.

Powerlines filament buzz
like walls honeycombed over decades
plaster stained by sweetness.

New frogs hesitate
when I shoulder scuff gravel
close to the long grass dew:
spring peepers
stop their throated bell trills.

I dreamed last night after an April storm
rain sweeps pushing from all directions

the scarlet tanager that broods five eggs
outside my office window.

I dreamed weather reports about anvil clouds
thunders’ hyperbole, red and green radar buds
tornadoes that knock down towns with names
like wildflowers
like cupboard essentials
like pioneer stock.

I dreamed the freckles of a woman’s chest.

And when I woke lizard smooth
and no three in the morning could cure that

I walked:

tables of fields
moon silvered furrows
shades of grove tree blindness.

But now
the marsh ditch water is shallow with blue algae.

The green leaves, the air, the unmarked pathway
outlined with cardinal feathers.

Just before sunrise birds
sound like chlorophyll smudges on my shoes
like dragonfly wings (wax paper, olive oil, water, sunlight)
like shriveling blackberries.

And nothing breaks from the brush.

Nothing takes flight over my head.
No rooks, no pheasants scatter
at this slight intrusion,
no chimes of wings, no burst of confusion.

Like mosaics, many of my poems take form through the accretion of odd-shaped fragments. In my process of journaling and culling and revising, of finding and sanding and placing images, the bits of broken glass and ceramic, I sometimes find that two or more individual in-progress poems actually work well together. That is what happened here. The first five stanzas and the final four stanzas were part of a piece I was writing to try to capture the absolute stillness of a spring morning walk I had taken, and the middle seven stanzas were in one about a bout of late-night insomnia I had when I woke from a strange dream and couldn’t fall back asleep. After working on both poems individually for about six months, I realized that they should be mortared and tuckpointed together.