David Wagoner


Mother’s Night


She’s celebrating it for me. She’s coming back
from the place where she was scattered, from the place
where she was introduced to medical students
and their teachers and was slowly taken apart,
back from where she lost herself among nurses,
from what was left of her house, from her single bed,
from her sink and her kitchen window where she could see
the dead stalks in her garden. She’s coming back,
her arms full of the flowers I gave her once
a year in April, and she’s asking me
to put them back on the stems in the greenhouses
they came from, to let them shrink away from the light.


“Mother’s Night” is reprinted from “After the Point of No Return” (Copper Canyon Press, 2012).

David Wagoner was born in Ohio and raised in Indiana. Before moving to Washington in 1954, Wagoner attended Pennsylvania State University where he was a member of the Naval ROTC and received an M.A. in English from Indiana University. Wagoner was selected to serve as chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 1978, replacing Robert Lowell, and he served as the editor of the original Poetry Northwest until its last issue in 2002. Known for his dedication to teaching, he was named a professor emeritus at the University of Washington. Wagoner has been compared stylistically to his longtime teacher and friend, Theodore Roethke. He is the author of ten novels (including The Escape Artist) and 24 books of poetry, most recently Good Morning and Good Night (University of Illinois, 2005), A Map of the Night (University of Illinois, 2008), and After the Point of No Return (Copper Canyon Press, 2012). He also collected and edited Straw for the Fire: From the Notebooks of Theodore Roethke (1972). He lives with his family in Lynnwood.


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