All in by Lesley Wheeler

by Lesley Wheeler

Transporter or holodeck? Either I

have rematerialized incompletely

(sparkling shower of particles

dimmer) or this simulated city

has acquired a wobble, a tell.

Puffy-jacketed people

duck from awning to overhang

along Newbury Street wondering

if swan boats sail in the slanting

drizzle or a hand-held foam-coated

reservoir might suit better. Inside

the Church of the Covenant,

meanwhile, Tiffany glass

somehow glows against cold

puddingstone—how does a yoked

god’s robe luminesce by cloud,

its whiteness alive with ocher

and smoky motion? Gazing

at invisible sparrows, bracing

an overlarge hand on a rock,

he is surely transported too,

that blink of tropical foliage

behind him now, that dreamy blue,

and him thinking how, lord,

did I get to Boston? I drove,

theoretically, via the hospital

where nurses unhooked my mother

from catheter, from I.V.,

and handed her over. Moved

a bed downstairs, stocked her fridge

with little bottles of virtual

food optimistically labeled

Ensure for safety and, for power,

Boost. Counted and sealed

her pills into rows of labeled

oyster shells. Then, north,

as if stillness were heresy.

Back home a library of mountains

I never read. Mosaic rain

I smash right through.

Look at the god, good-looking,

how he looks at the ground,

willing it real, willing himself

to love where he hardly lives,

in his stupid human body,

an always ailing thing. Rather

the sparrow be true than cells

struggling to contain

unlikely radiance, and failing.

Compounding errors. The tumor

an index of poisons, every one

chiming as they transform her.


Lesley Wheeler is the author of four poetry collections, including Radioland and Heterotopia, winner of the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize; her recent chapbook, Propagation, was published by dancing girl press. Her poems and essays appear in Ecotone, Poetry, Crab Orchard Review, and other journals. She is the Henry S. Fox Professor of English at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia and blogs about poetry at