Sprague Vonier lives and writes in Milwaukee and on his farm in Sheboygan county. His work has appeared in a number of literary journals, such as The Cream City Review, and Blue Unicorn, as well as The Wisconsin Poets' Calendar over the past ten years.

Eve of St. Mark
(Patron Saint of Lawyers)

As the clock strikes eleven
on the Eve of Saint Mark,
we move through the ossuary, past row
upon row of those buried there
and, beyond it, up the spiraling stairwell
of the Wittleford Church to the tower
where, according to the ancient custom,
we keep the watch at midnight,
peering into the night to see
the shades of those who
will perish by violence and how they will look
at the moment of death. They come,
floating on the feathery air, mouths agape,
eyes wide. There jangle I, like a xylophone,
a ruckle of bones dancing merrily,
followed by a squadron of lawyers
dressed in their black suits
just as they are in life.

Copyright 2001 by Sprague Vonier

The Private Garden

I have made a lover out of flowers
hair a tapestry of roses in the bud
eyes full of shooting stars
lips the umber lips of tulips
surrounding lady slipper smiles

Speeding north my lover comes
a heart of red carnations
clutched in lily hands
feet shod in orchids
long legs of amaryllis
azaleas at the knees

and when my lover comes
I'll cry, "Oh, yes, yes!
Let there be one more spring."

Copyright 2001 by Sprague Vonier


I think of the settlers who tamed this land,
turning the mown hay with pitchforks, loading
their wagons high as houses, or like masons
carefully stacking square bales up to the barn rafters.

"Giants in the Earth," the ones who broke the plains.
Now all along the rolling hills, lie big round bales,
too heavy for the farmer and his wife to lift.
Now machines alone know the land. They ride

across wide fields like war engines, looming
twice again as tall as the men who drive them,
men whose footfalls never touch the soil,
who climb to air conditioned cabs and plug

their ears with stereophones, shutting out the songs
of meadow birds and of whirring mower blades.
All through the night they ply the fields that stretch
as far as oceans toward the dawn. In their long

sedentary days, these farmers earn the glazed
look of long-haul truckers and grow thick about the waist.
They leave behind their big round bales, waiting
out in the fields all winter for other machines

to pick them up. Forlorn barns stand empty
and eventually fall down, silently crushed
by giants who never look back but roll
right on, their chisel plows scoring the land.

Copyright 2001 by Sprague Vonier

The Diversion

I kneel shoulder high in weeds, almost hidden,
to select fifty brittle sticks, pale as bone,
from a field of yarrow for casting the I Ching.

My friends and I will amuse ourselves, making
the ancient ritual into weekend fun, laughing.
But uninvited thoughts will bite the laughter short.

No one will dare say it aloud: it could be bad
luck to play garlor games with another man's
beliefs. Then the chittering of sticks
and chattering of voices will resume.

We'll read the hexagrams and seek the Changes.
What if they read Fire and Ice again?
Everyone will grin warily,
thinking of burned planets.

Copyright by Sprague Vonier

Dance Team

She peels the covers. He throttles the alarm. She starts Cof- ee. he the toast. He places, in her saucers, cups. She blooms an answer before his his question buds. He nouns, she verbs at cocktail small talk. Blindfolded, they can saw a lady in half with sharpened tongues, and glide, black swans together, swayingly, into the night.

Copyright by Sprague Vonier

Paris - The People

Paris -- the people. They jostle each other on the way in and on the way out.... on the autoroutes, in airports, train stations, bus stations, on boat docks. Cars ride up on the sidewalks and people spill out into the street or hug the passageways, close to the store- fronts, wary of velos threatening to run over their toes. Paris -- the people...crowd up against the ticketbooths, fill the galleries, the dress circle, the balconies and the boxes: standing room only. Eager shoppers choke the street markets and the flea markets. At the big museums they cue up at the gates in a line stretching down the block. The cheap stores open their bellies to the street, whole walls riped open to the plain air. Populations of buyers of every color and size assault the mountains of goods -- seeming to threaten death by trampling. Paris -- the people fill every hotel: perhaps it will be a month, two months -- says the desk clerk, a secret leer of sadistic pleasure hidden in his voice -- before you will find a place to lay your head. Paris -- the people. Three crowd into an elevator made for one or two...five in an elevator for four. All the seats and the tables inside and outside at the cafes are occupied -- save for space at the dirty-looking little bistro across the way down the side street in the middle of the block where only three men who look like Arab laborers drink sullenly. But the restaurants are full and the wine bars are full and the other bistros are full and the brasseries are full. The park lawns and the park benches are peopled. The little folding chairs in the Luxemburg are all taken. The metros are bulging: the buses stagger under their loads. Paris -- the people pack themselves into Notre Dame Cathedral, as if seized by a religious frenzy, and stand transfixed in the dim, filtered light, staring up at the soaring vaulted ceiling and the rose windows, their faces relect the yellow glow from a forest of burning votive candles. The people storm the big department stores and overwhelm the little boutiques. How can so many be flowing up and down the Champs Elysees when the whole town seems to be already at the Tracadero? dodging skateboards in the great courtyard of the Chaillot Palace, or climbing on ballustrades above the espanade, or leaning on the railings to gaze across the Seine at the throbbing herds near the Eiffel Tower or the embarked throngs on the bateaux mouches loaded to the gunnels. or they tread the hundreds of stairs, then wash their feet at the fountains. Paris -- the people struggle up the hills to Montmartre, jam its streets and spiral up into the tower of Sacre Coeur in an irreverent endless churn of humanity. Sight-seeing is their religion. Paris --- the people seem excited as if they were about to make some delightful discovery. They cannot wait they cannot go home they cannot go to sleep they must keep moving -- up the Left Bank, over to the Ile de St. Louis, across into Les Halles, filling the places up with life, laughing, calling to friends, gesturing wildly, talking quickly. Paris -- the people. Even the cemeteries are full and bursting with life..

Copyright by Sprague Vonier

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