Three Poems


A rhetorical figure or species of metaphor; an imaginary person conceived as representing a thing or an abstraction. The Oxford English Dictionary

It’s usually the kind of speech that makes American
eyes glaze over with boredom, so irrelevant
to the world of markets and finance, rugged individuals
and high stakes. If speech is not money, it is nothing.

So how do we explain the recent burst of poetry
in the high Court that re-created the paper on which
corporations are chartered as persons allowed
to spend unlimited money while the rights of humans

with mothers and fathers are limited? And what about
the proposal to raise fertilized eggs to personhood
while those who breathe must verify their birth
with two pieces of paper issued by the state?

What a victory for poetry! Poof. A figure of speech
is now a person, while the human being who made it
is paper. No more need for real children. The leftover
eggs on ice will be perfect descendants for paper people.


To Belief

Everyone has to believe in something, and I believe in Poetry, not cookies.
It happened in a high school course on the New Testament: "In the beginning
was the Word." Now there's the Truth, raw as a salmon swimming upstream.
I do often fear the salmon won't get there. Poetry requires so much good will
—attending to the voice of strangers.

I continue to believe in Poetry, the word made flesh, precisely because it always
lies there waiting at the beginning to shape what we see and don't. Because it
still leaps out of the water of syllables into fresh air to change its course and ours.

Because without it, I cannot imagine a good life in my country, where many seem
to believe only what they are told from the pulpits of television by corporations
now enshrined in the hall of individuals, more powerful than you yourself in front
of your morning mirror.

Some days, Venus swims
straight to her half-shell,
to rise in naked glory.


Like Deer

      after Jean Nordhaus

One winter I photographed
a family of five deer who were
so starved they came straight
to our deck for bird seed.

I'd see them moving slowly through
the trees, so I'd remove my shoes,
find the camera, step quietly
to the window where the light
was right that day, turn off the flash
and wait—not for great photos
through two panes of smudged glass,
but to pay enough attention, to know
the one who limped was healing,
to see the coyote looking on
and scare him away.

I wish we could see our own poor
as families whose lives are interrupted
by bad weather, whose bodies must
survive with pride. I want to say,
be gentle so their beauty thrives
comes out like deer to food
or a woman to love.

—Estella Lauter, Fish Creek, WI