Dime Saint, Nickel Devil
Ann Lauinger

Dime Saint, Nickel Devil

It takes a certain talent for bewilderment
to be a saint; that’s why they’re not a dime
a dozen. Wondering takes up all their time.
They wonder themselves to sleep, they wonder
stumbling out to pee. They chew their coarse
bread in wonder, wonder their voices hoarse
with prayer, wander wondering until they drop,
then do it all again because it doesn’t
make sense, and that’s called God.

I’ve been bewildered, but I’ve only ever pondered—
wonder’s cousin from the airless tenements.
Mine fits snugly, the bespoke bewilderment
of a May afternoon cut just to my measure.
Or so the silent chime of nodding bells avers
and sky the color of grace and ministering birds.
The draught is equal parts petals scattered
at a wedding and oblivion like a memory of lilacs.
I’m fated to surrender to pure sense.

The next day the deer have come and dined.
In that angry winter, desires were grubs,
graceful branches browsed right down to stubs.
Pondering means weighing, but what against what?
The euonymus did leaf again, glossy and rife.
When the young man’s heart stopped, his doctor-wife
couldn’t start it. Art Tatum jams “Deep Purple”
like a homecoming march. How can elegy become energy?
If it isn’t nonsense, the devil must be in it.

Ann Lauinger

has written two books of poetry: Persuasions of Fall (University of Utah Press, 2004), winner of the Agha Shahid Ali Prize in Poetry, and Against Butterflies (Little Red Tree Publishing, 2013). Her poems have appeared in The Georgia Review, The Southern Poetry Review, and other journals and have been anthologized or featured in The Bedford Introduction to Literature, Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and Martha Stewart Living Radio. A member of the literature faculty at Sarah Lawrence College, she serves on the Advisory Committee of Slapering Hol Press and lives in Ossining, New York.