February 3, 2020

Grace Bauer


Brother John is gone.
—The Wild Magnolias

There was the day, the world,
then—suddenly—the news
of you. No longer in it.

That world now one big less. One big hole
ripped in the fabric
of the whole of it.

There was the story of a lake, a place
you loved, the banks of that lake, and you
on those banks—and then you no longer.

And I cannot make myself un-imagine
the moment of your un-being. I can’t not
ask why? Or why that moment?

Or why not fight—for your life, the world, the love
of the lake, the people you loved, who love you.
I can’t make myself make that love past tense. I can’t

not wish for you to wait, to hang on—if not forever—at least until
that moment passes into another, so that other might pass
into now. With you still being in our time being.

At least I can imagine the possibility of beauty:
air thick with honeysuckle, the sun brilliant,
sky azure, perhaps a few stray clouds—

all of it reflecting on the calm surface of the water,
and bird song and flitter—the time being late
spring and such beauty thus common and likely—

though how unlikely it feels that summer has arrived
with you not here to see it. That the same sun now beating
down on those of us still missing

you—your laughter, your blue-green eyes as witness
to the world I know you loved as we did you (and do)
a world (meaning us, meaning me) that wishes

it could imagine you back into it, still and always with us.
The hole you left forever now. Part of the whole we are.

from Rattle #66, Winter 2019


Grace Bauer: “I suppose I write poetry to help make sense of things, or to try to make myself feel more at home in the world when things do not make sense—which is often enough (especially these days). Both lamentation and celebration are part of that attempt.” (web)

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November 21, 2017

Grace Bauer


How many years can a woman pose for a man
in the same bad hat and ratty fur
before the world goes gray before her eyes
and even la-de-la-de-la-de-la sounds like the blues?

How many nights can she lie alone while
the avant garde goes galloping toward the future
on their hobbyhorse? I tell you, my heart may belong
to da-da, but even an alter ego needs l’amour

which is more than a mere word and goes beyond mechanics.
Love—so easy to make, yet more difficult to create
by far than art. That’s why some people call
this kind of song a torch. And I keep singing—
la, de, la—to make something burn.

from Rattle #10, Winter 1998


Grace Bauer: “I am currently bent on surviving another winter in Nebraska, which might explain the longing for otherwise and elsewhere that keeps cropping up in my poems.”

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December 12, 2015

Grace Bauer


Life should be a novel, not a resume.
—Dave Toomey

I’m trying to get the years to justify
along the right-hand column of the page,
to sum up my accomplishments concisely
in neat lists that spell success, make progress
apparent at a glance. It’s a strange brand of fiction,
this genre, in which chapters are reduced
to paragraphs, decades to mere lines.
The narrative
leaves out joy and pain, love and loss—
all the spaces between events deemed pertinent
to this plot we call the profession. Tradition demands
we maintain the illusion our actions will always
continue to rise. The very possibility of denouement
must be scrupulously (or un) avoided. And as for climaxes,
well, the less said about extracurricular activities,
the happier most colleagues are.
Character is best left
sketchy, defined by doing, since evidence
of an inner life is considered extraneous to the point.
What is required is exposition reduced to outline—
all the intended reader has interest in or time for.
In fact, one will often be asked to edit the story
down to less than bare bones—three pages max
I was asked for just last year.
But the version
I am fleshing out now is, supposedly, the full one,
and I’ve finally got my categories straight:
teaching and research and service lined-up like
dutiful soldiers prepared for parade or battle—
I’m not sure which. My headings are tabbed in.
In CAPS. In BOLD. I eye this representation
of myself scrolling down my pc screen.
That’s me,
all right—or a reasonable facsimile thereof.
Me, with a tidy, organized past. Me, with memories
selected to leave out detours and diversions.
It’s a story sans heart—that ambiguous antagonist
that always lays herself too wide open to critique,
her messy text too easy to deconstruct.
I print
the document that bears my name and scan
for correctable errors, knowing life is a course
of study I’ll never really be sure
I have passed. Until I have.

from Rattle #18, Winter 2002
Tribute to Teachers


Grace Bauer: “I am generally very fond of my students and the process of teaching, however, sometimes I find myself frustrated with the bureaucratic aspects of academia. Fortunately, I can vent those frustrations in poems such as the one above, with, hopefully, some humor and grace. Writing well is the best revenge.” (web)

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June 11, 2012

Grace Bauer


It’s men I’m prone to eye, but when she comes
to take our order, I’m too distracted
to think beyond drinks, too awed
by the ink that garments her limbs
to consider appetizers, much less entrees.

It’s not polite to stare, I know,
but the fact of her invites it.
Why else the filigreed ankles,
those Peter Max planets orbiting her
left shin, that Botticelli angel soaring
just below her right knee?

She’s a walking illustration, adorned
to amaze, yet as seemingly nonchalant
as the homely white-sneakered HoJo girl
I myself once was, describing the specials
of the day, listing our options for dressings,
then scribbling the choices we make
on her hand-held pad.

My companion can’t help wondering how far
up the ante goes, says he bets there’s a piercing
or two at the end of the, so to speak, line.
I’m more inclined to ponder motivation
and stamina—how long and how much
she suffered to make herself a work of art.
For I have no doubt, she sees her own flesh
as a kind of canvas. Her body as frame
and wall and traveling exhibition,
a personal statement on public display.

Same could be said of the purple tights
I wear beneath my frilly black skirt—
too bold a choice for some people’s tastes,
but not a permanent commitment.
Clothes make the woman more
than the man, despite the familiar adage,
and body as both self and other is
a contradiction we live with, however comfortably
—or not—we grow into our own skins.

I’ll admit part of what I feel
is admiration, even envy.
Whatever she may ever become
in this world, she will never again be drab.
She’ll wear this extravagance
of color and form as she grays
into more—or less—wisdom.

But tonight she simply performs
her duty as server, courteous and efficient
as she does what she can to satisfy
the hunger we walked in with, but not
the hunger the sight of her
inspires us to take home.

from Rattle #36, Winter 2011


Grace Bauer: “I am currently bent on surviving another winter in Nebraska, which might explain the longing for otherwise and elsewhere that keeps cropping up in my poems.”

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