David Wagoner



                        Leaving Something Behind


A fox at your neck and snakeskin on your feet,
You have gone to the city behind an ivory brooch,
Wearing your charms for and against desire, bearing your beauty
Past all the gaping doorways, amazing women on edge
And leading men's eyes astray while skirting mayhem,
And I, for a day, must wish you safe in your skin.

The diggers named her the Minnesota Girl. She was fifteen,
Eight thousand years ago, when she drowned in a glacial lake,
Curling to sleep like her sea-snail amulet, holding a turtle-shell,
A wolf's tooth, the tine of an antler, carrying somehow
A dozen bones from the feet of water birds. She believed in her charms,
But something found her and kept her. She became what she wore.

She loved her bones and her own husk of creatures
But left them piecemeal on the branching shore.
Without you, fox paws, elephant haunches, all rattling tails,
Snail's feet, turtles' remote hearts, muzzles of wolves,
Stags' ears, and the tongues of water birds are only themselves.
Come safely back. There was nothing in her arms.


David Wagoner, Collected Poems 1956-1976, Indiana University Press, 1966.