All you have to do is ask by Meredith Walters


Unlike the vast majority of her contemporaries, and very happily for us, Meredith Walters's linguistic imagination engages more frequently with the wonder of Art than with the narrower concerns of the Self. To enter her poems is to "tender your permission slip at the entrance of an enchanted universe." It's a seriously enchanted universe, informed by the poet's powerful engagement with art and painting and by fresh and imaginative aesthetic questioning. It's a place where everything is animated -- objects, ideas, questions -- a place where "even the spaces between questions call to you." Fortunately, the poet's instinct leads her to prioritize "first the songs, then the theories." The body, of course, being "an engine of song," it is natural that baths of sunlight, seeds that cling to your socks, bald eggs, congestion and aches make their appearance, alongside a variety of beguiling constructions such as dragonfly geometry and bellows pelagic.

These poems feel like the grandchildren of Stevens' poems. They descend straight through Ashbery but proclaim their unique character in their allegiance to the movement of physical instinct, "seaweed intuition," as she calls it, rather than dream logic. The poems slide by on a smoothly oiled bed of sand, roughly textured but at the same time silk. There is great good humor here, and wit, as well as the courage to "say happiness in a dark age." Above all, there is surprise and everywhere the exquisite development of metaphor, the true language of poetry.

After a CCD screening of Our Lady of Mt. Fatima,
Sister Immaculata asked me if I wanted to be angel
        when I died,
and I replied that I'd rather be an asteroid belt.

Through the lively poetic alchemy of All you have to do is ask, Meredith Walters has earned herself a place among those stars. -- Sidney Wade, contest judge

The poems of Meredith Walters are exquisite, musical, and full of emotional hints and subtle wisdom. She takes surrealism and wrings its neck. She takes NY and Language dogmas and goes on independently, supple and fresh. She treasures objects and makes them. She is a love poet, like Joe Ceravolo, where what is loved is thought itself. It's not for nothing that she has also worked as a carpenter: She knows how to unweave, too. Irresistble poetry. -- David Shapiro

Will you get answers? You'll get original poetry with real, imagined, and formerly surreal, but now actual, people, places, and things. Look out! Look up! Metaphysics, politics, and aesthetics masquerade as flying objects, detritus, flames, you name it, or rather, Ms. Walters does. These poems collude to pleasure and terrify readers, who will find themselves turning the pages of a three-dimensional world. Have fun! Beware! -- Jane Miller



Hum of Little Engines and Palm-Sized Devices

Nothing big happens
amid deforestation and superlative white sales.
The refrigerator develops a nasty buzz,
Washington runs a bad play against Miami,
and I stand like a poodle
in a construction zone, unable to name what is missing.
Fearfulness moves me,
like you, unseeingly toward the car door.
My journeys tend to end in grief
among racks of clearance sweaters,
where I suddenly lament the steady loss of the manatee.
I owe an apology to any of several words
denoting any of several American larches.
I have no excuse except to say that I have no religion,
the nightjar's cries do not resemble mine.
In my willingness to remain a stranger to the trees I pass
I keep as a secret my search for one ecstatic welcome.
My chambered heart echoes dragonfly geometry, but I do not know
what it intends, I cannot name the cause or consequence.
What's the voice of Maria Callas to sparrows in warehouse rafters?
Strangely, under the streets
Tuvan throat singers offer a chorus in praise of war ponies.
Yes, like me.


Your Name Written on a Grain of Rice

Every grain of sand
multiplied by the number of galaxies in the observable universe
equals all the starfish stranded on a shore, where a single soul
throws back as many as he can
despite the defeatist ridicule of a passerby.
This story is supposed to be an inspirational device.
My mother won the Star-Thrower Award
for her outstanding customer service and afterwards,
she could turn "mistakes" into "teachable moments"
and would substitute the word "problem"
with the word "challenge."
After a CCD screening of Our Lady of Mt. Fatima,
Sister Immaculata asked me if I wanted to be angel when I died,
and I replied that I'd rather be an asteroid belt.
She said that she would pray for me, except for the word "pray"
substitute "break your spirit with New Testament coloring books."
Then Anna McClintock died.
"God called her back to heaven," the Sister told me,
which left open the possibility that I could call her back down here,
but they buried her, beloved daughter and sister, on a vast lawn
and marked her spot with a stone lamb,
even though she was more dolphin than lamb.


The First Time I Saw the Rio Grande
I Could Only Think of Marty Robbins

What they don't tell you if you want to be a singing cowboy is
you will wander from telephone to telephone
and never kiss anyone for real despite your guitar.

You must learn to tell a stranger from a loner
by the length of his stare.

There is a shadow cast by the right way to live.

When you choose a path without prospect, you can buy
what you need with quarters from under the floormat.

Beautiful women with chicken-shit boyfriends are the first to cause
trouble, they pass you their numbers on cocktail napkins
and are not fit for a song
about the lonesome half under lunar influence.

Never take your eyes off your lockbox full of gunfighter ballads.

You must never write a song that ends: I don't know what I want,
I don't care, give me anything.

No pasture will receive you after a life of sundown departures.

There is no good or bad but wandering makes it so.


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