Laura Madeline Wiseman | Selected poems

If We Ride the Road First Thing,
Then We Debate Until the Blue

say it’s what fell from a volcanic explosion
that launched fire into the air, how allies and
enemies stood together on crags to witness
the smoldering ash that would record a
civilization by fresco. Say it’s evidence of a
deeper wound, a test that was failed, an
obstacle that shouldn’t’ve been passed, like
some of our own—the power to create
fallout, radiating the truth of inner rotting.
Say this is greatness marked by pillars that
reach towards vistas beyond our known
skies. Say this is what it’s like to live beside
terror. Say nothing. Say

If We Pedal in Silent Babble,
Then Sounds of

lightweight, chain-oiled, equipped with
puncture resistant tubes, our fat tire bikes
hum across the island’s vast beaches. Which
number are we on—six or seven? We know
there are more to cross, some small, others
that disappear under the tide, a few too
large for a single day. Each morning, we
leave our lonely camp cleaner than we found
it. We ride the quiet or jabber. I talk
bookstores with erasable prices, those
endless aisles, those good years of sand
volleyball and hot yoga, sauna hush and
interval hubbub. Sometimes mid-morning
we roll into the soundless shade to pretend
we’re not on a tropical island, but in ebooks
of droning hell, an overpopulated city, or the
murderous past. Or because we don’t have
bills or taxable assets, I think about hooky,
how my aunt said, Just call in sick, when I
needed to finish homework or attend a
meet. I don’t know how my friends did it—
quit, secret sponsor, coach’s pet. Some likely
had parents on PTA. When we started that
business, we never played hooky, never
prattled about this or that, never found the
sweet stillness of our fit bodies. Are we
playing hooky now? Then we stop for the
murmur of waves, meaning it must be lunch
or second breakfast or even just a snack.
Inaudible from here, porpoises swim
between the breakers and beyond them,
whales pod, but gulls climb thermals
laughing. At least we won’t starve, you say,
pulling dragon fruit or maybe starfruit from
a tree. Pinching my belly, I say, We’ve got
chub to lose. You say, But the bones in your
face. Then we’re riding again, and I wonder,
if we’d been born in water, would we have
gills to feel the ocean’s reverberations? If
we’d grown up surrounded by tides of
saltwater rather than tides of corn, would
we fathom what emerges noiseless from
such waves? If we knew the right
congruence of maps, connections, or routes,
would our journey be towards somewhere
that’d never been lost? But by then, it’s
night. We make another lonely camp. I
beachcomb, then stretch. You collect
driftwood, then soak in the warm shallows.
We eat. We thank our bicycles for another
day’s good ride. I meditate. You study the
map. Then the sun sets. I want to tell you, I
love you, but the tongue seems

If in the Realm of the Unknown,
Then We Were Looking

You: for ways to learn land like the muscles,
skin, and bones of the body—layers
dissolved by the wind to balance rocks mid-air.

Me: for camping, pit toilets, outdoor yoga,
ranger-guided hikes. Instead, registration
announced, No fee required at this time.

So I could say, We could live here for as long
as we like for free.

With our bikes locked to a shelter, we: for
silence as we leaped snowmelt or found
stones to cross the weep of spring.

Or we: for a path zigzagged by muddy banks
and steep limestone hills, little purchase to
press onward.

So one of us could say, We don’t have to go
this way.

laura madeline wiseman_croppedLaura Madeline Wiseman teaches writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is the editor of two anthologies, Bared and Women Write Resistance, selected for the Nebraska 150 Sesquicentennial Book List. She is the recipient of 2015 Honor Book Nebraska Book Award, Wurlitzer Foundation Fellowship, and an Academy of American Poets Award. Her book Drink won the 2016 Independent Publisher Bronze Book Award for poetry. Her latest book is Velocipede (Stephen F. Austin State University Press), a 2016 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award Finalist for Sports.

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