Gillian Nevers started writing poetry in 2002 after retiring from a career working with victims of crime. Her poems have appeared in Silk Road, Miller’s Pond, Wisconsin People and Ideas, Pearl, Pirene’s Fountain, Verse Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar, and several other print and online literary magazines. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2011 and won second prize in the 2008 Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters statewide poetry contest. Gillian is the current membership chair for the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets and writes the “Markets” column for the WFOP’s website and print Museletter. She has a degree in Art Education from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, with a concentration in printmaking and painting, which may explain why many of her poems are influenced by works of art. Gillian has two grown sons and lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with her husband.
Stilt Walking the Upper Peninsula
By the time I thought to wake you, the stilt walker,
black rain pants billowing in the wind, was behind us.
His lumbering figure receding in the rearview mirror, his
day-glow yellow knapsack disappearing into the west.
It felt like a good omen for the trip east—this lanky boy,
grappling with gravity along the shoulder of a highway.
So much so, it made magical sense that a deer would stare
at me from the side view mirror, until the interior went dark and
a blur of brown passed over the windshield. The thud, then tear of
hoof etching furrows into the roof ringing in my ears—Oh,
please God, let it be dead.
You walked to where the deer lay, and stood, as if in prayer,
a black silhouette back-lit by semis barreling through
the morning fog, before dragging it off the shoulder and rolling it
into the ditch.
Sheets of rain slashed across the road, slowed us, rattled
our nerves, all the way to Montréal. We missed our exit.
Took the next one. Relieved to be off the labyrinth of merging
lanes and ramps, found our way to the center, to our shabby hotel.
If our room had been in the French hotel across the street, if
the sun had shone, if you had read the street map. If we had not
wandered for hours, arriving at the Marché Jean-Talon too early,
the Jardin Botanique, too late. If the Mexican restaurant beneath
our room had closed at midnight. If rain had not followed us
to Vermont, chased us through New York, swept us back….
We drove in silence, the rhythm of windshield wipers a metronome
keeping time with our thoughts. At night, in each anonymous motel,
we talked about the deer, as if it were a child we failed to protect. Maybe
it was only stunned. Maybe after we drove off, it struggled to its feet,
ran into the woods. “Maybe,” you said, “the deer was no more real
than that stilt-walking kid you say you saw.”
About an hour out from Ludington, the rain stopped. Still,
I couldn’t shake the damp, stood on the deck watching
the ferry’s wake, wanting the sun’s heat. You came, stood
beside me and read from the Detroit Free Press, “Stilt-walker
says trek has shown him Michiganders at their best.” Neil Sauter,
a Blissfield resident, with mild cerebral palsy, completed
his 800-mile trek across Michigan.
Blissfield. Maybe, we should go there some day.
First appeared in Verse Wisconsin
What I Would Have Missed
That boy will come to no good in the end. Maybe, but
he was good in the beginning. Exuding this James Dean
persona, he was irresistible. He didn’t talk much, but
I didn’t want talk. It was enough to lean into him, press
my face against his back, feel his nipples harden
under my palms. The wind and full-throttle throb
of his bike blocked all admonishments.
It didn’t matter that he had a girl friend. That night
on the golf course, the air thick with insect sound, the
sky sprayed with stars and us, folding and unfolding
into each other convinced me he would leave her.
I ran wild that summer: staggered into work late,
hung-over with love; broke curfew; just about broke
Mama’s heart. Some would say I lost my bearings.
That’s what you’re supposed to do at seventeen.
Otherwise, wouldn’t life be like always eating the olive,
but never drinking the martini?
First appeared in Pirene’s Fountain