You People

By Nance Van Winckel Nance Van Winckel
People, don't ask me again where my shoes are.
The valley I walked through was frozen to me
as I was to it. My heavy hide, my zinc
talisman—I'm fine, people. Don't stare
at my feet. And don't flash the sign of the cross
in my face. I carry the Blue Cross Card—
card among cards, card of my number
and gold seal. So shall ye know I am of
the system, in the beast's belly and up
to here, people, with your pity.

People, what is wrong with you? I don't care
what the sign on your door says. I will go
to another door. I will knock and rattle
and if you won't, then surely someone, somewhere,
will put a pancake in my hand.

You people of the rhetorical huh? You lords and ladies
of the blooming stump, I bend over you, taste you,
keep an eye on you, dream for you the beginning
of what you may one day dream an end to.

The new century peeled me bone-bare
like a first song inside a warbler—that bird, people,            
who knows not to go where the sky's stopped.
Keep this in mind. Do you think
the fox won't find your nest? That
the egg of you will endure the famine?

You, you people born of moons with no
mother-planets, you who are back-lit,
who have no fathers in heaven, hear now
the bruise-knuckled knock of me. I am returned.

From your alley. From your car up on blocks.
From the battered, graffitied railcars that uncouple
and move out into the studded green lightning.

Dare you trust any longer the chained-up dogs of hell
not to bust free? Or that because your youth's
been ransacked, nothing more will be asked of you?
If a bloody foot's dragged across your coiffed lawn—
do not confuse me with dawn.

Now people, about the shoes: the shoes
have no doubt entered the sea
and are by now walking the ramparts of Atlantis.
I may be a false prophet, but god bless me, at least
I have something to say. I lay myself down
in a pencil of night—no chiseled tip yet,
but the marks already forming in the lead.

Source: Poetry (December 2004).


This poem originally appeared in the December 2004 issue of Poetry magazine

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December 2004
 Nance  Van Winckel


Nance Van Winckel’s sixth book of poems, Pacific Walkers (University of Washington Press), and her fourth collection of stories, 
Boneland (Univeristy of Oklahoma Press), were published in 2013.

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Faith & Doubt, Religion, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Dramatic Monologue

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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