The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


David Wagoner

Having a Drink with Jesus


He'll have one with you, sure,
Wine, please, but He sits there,
holding it, smiling as much
            to Himself as at the people
            slouching by on the sidewalk,
            but now He's looking at you,
watching you drink yours
as if not sure what you think
it tastes like or what it's good for
            and why you've nearly decided
            maybe to have another one
            before Him. Already you feel
slightly more benevolent
toward passersby, more understanding
of the difficulties they must face
            as human beings going home
            to their next suppers
            which are very likely to be
pretty much like their last
or, homeless, to somebody else's
jug in a cardboard house. You wish
             everyone well. You forgive them
             in advance for whatever
             indecencies they're apt to commit
tonight or tomorrow, just as long
as you're not involved. You toast them
bottoms up, and so does He,
             clinking His glass against yours
             a little too hard for comfort
             and drinks it down to the dregs
with a straight, dispassionate face
though what's left is now,
damn it, the color of blood.

David Wagoner

The Muse in Her Dressing Room


She’s facing her images
illuminated by mirrors,
            and a moment of reflection
            tells her she has nothing
to fear from these routine
but tender pats on the cheeks
            and readjustments of cleavage
            and feels no need for uplift
as long as she has her role
(in the absence of criticism)
            as the only leading lady
            in a benefit performance
for a down-and-out old actor
who isn’t in the wings
            at the edge of the closed curtains,
            but out by the lobby door,
wondering why no one
is in the ticket booth
            to serve the customers
            who haven’t arrived yet.




DAVID WAGONER has published 20 books of poems, most recently After the Point of No Return, (Copper Canyon Press, 2012).  He has also published ten novels, one of which, The Escape Artist, was made into a movie by Francis Ford Coppola. He won the Lilly Prize in 1991, six yearly prizes from Poetry, two yearly prizes from Prairie Schooner, and the Arthur Rense Prize for Poetry from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2011.  In 2007, his play First Class was given 43 performances at A Contemporary Theatre in Seattle. He was a chancellor of  the Academy of American Poets for 23 years.  He edited Poetry Northwest from 1966 to 2002, and he is professor emeritus of English at the U. of Washington.



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