Monique Gagnon German

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Mother Meaning

I go running, get my blood pounding

look at the horizon see it retreat, watch it

pull away from me like words like love

like everything language makes.

I am the bedrock of the living room,

constantly pushed and stretched.

I am the moon’s best friend

up all night on her shoulder

with infants on my neck. I admire her

strength; I’ve seen her walk on water,

even after braving so many catastrophic hits.

Yesterday, I wept an ocean

in the kitchen pumping milk while

my babies slept late in their cribs

and the cabinets dripped semantics.

I knew it suddenly with conviction:

this planet can’t hear a word we say.

How could it over the din of roiling lava,

shearing winds, scouring tsunami waves

and the constant grinding crunch of shifting plates?

Is it petty, my anger that everything

pulses with meaning

but still disappears into space?

So, I talk to the gasping dishwasher,

dribble phrases across the driveway

until they swish the net. These are my credible

witnesses. I celebrate them. I sing

in French to my toddlers about a frère

who oversleeps or maybe dies by the time

morning bells clang the rest of the town awake.

I want them to know we aren’t the sort to give up,

we are the sort to try to make values, make sense.

My babies sing along with me, as if to test

the words strength. I watch them stretch

each syllable in babbles and innocence. They borrow

more real words every day, yell them from their high-chairs

and car seats. And the words comply, even though

they are probably snickering and sighing, impatient

with all our attempts; nobody knows more than words

just how quickly meanings can change.

Maybe only the moon can appreciate

the mother urge to see the results of efforts put in.

If she could, she would probably nose in and investigate

the blue dome of our Earth, odd child she’s forever fostered,

protected, and bathed. How she’d listen to our words and phrases

to understand our meaning, discern our intent. From her vantage,

what verdict I can only guess: love, disappointment,

and all their synonyms. How stung we might feel to know

the dark side of her sentiment. We’d probably yell up at her

to stop being so tough, to go away, even though we need her

right where she is, revolving around us, constant lantern face,

never giving up on us entirely, never once turning away.

Sky Chronicles


I’ve got blues

that surpass navy,

cerulean, sapphire,

cornflower, turquoise,

iridescent, eggshell

and cobalt, baby.

I know loneliness,

the length of days

and nights as they move

through me,

molecule by molecule

cataloguing the sun’s face

while it flirts

with the moon

in broad day

and I examine you

with tips of space,

tendrils upon

your trees,




unable to feel anything

but shapes,

blowing on you

like candles

like dandelion fodder

without wishes

for your sake.

So, don’t look

to me for answers

about the track

the ballgame

your love life

your suffering.

And when you climb

to get above me,

expect me to slap

your face.

I am best,

above your head

out the window,


split by clouds

birds, storms,

shuttles and airplanes.

So, keep me there

at that distance

that inspires science

and faith but away

from birthday wishes

demands and property deeds.

You can’t see, can’t reach,

can’t know me,

the keeper

of the smooth

blue notes

that conduct

your weather or fate

as you stroll along

day upon day

beneath the eyes

of giant hurricanes.

30 Days in a Row   


All my significant ex-boyfriends show up.

They want to Tango, they want to Two-step,

they want to play tourist; watch me implode

and I’m so busy driving at horizons

to the airport, weddings, the doctor’s and work

that I am just a shifting gear, a 3rd party observer

in the clockwork of this month.

                                                                  Today driving north on I-15

                                                                  a Native American man in a cowboy hat

                                                                  stared at me at a stop light

                                                                  while I sang with the radio

                                                                  “Tonight, tonight, tonight…”

                                                                  When I caught him, he smiled.

I tell one, I do not feel…

In Love, he cuts me off, sometimes

you have to give something up.

So I bring him to the zoo at his request

which seems tight, claustrophobic,

an exhibit of sorts. He snaps

pictures economically;

only the ones nearest extinction

and one shot of me when I am not looking.

                                                                  Yesterday driving down 163

                                                                  I saw a dwarf or a midget

                                                                  vomiting in the breakdown lane

                                                                  ridding himself of curds of brown stuff.

                                                                  He wore a softball uniform unbuttoned to the beltline.

                                                                  I kept wondering if his team won.


Of course, the gorillas make the cut

into the lens for nostalgia or for having been caught.

They draw a constant crowd of admirers,

animated murmurers who point and say,

So much like us! as they slide along

the cultured path, the plexiglass wall.

                                                       In the last 30 days

                                                       I’ve seen two cop cars and one ambulance

                                                       tethered together twice:

                                                       Once heading south on Route 5

                                                       Once northwest on the 101.

                                                       First aid kits for road rage, narcolepsy, leadfoot or wanderlust?


But the sea lions are more demonstrative

of something I trust:

2 swim-dancing like lovers completely immersed,

1 in the shallows by himself, sleeping it off.

And I know where I am standing only once

when a young boy turns to me

to share a thought then sees who I am

and says, You’re not my… and darts off.

                                                      Both times I kept driving

                                                      but never reached the site

                                                      where pieces lay visible

                                                      picking up luminescent rays of light

                                                      from the moon, the stars, the passing cars

                                                      or their drivers.


I am near the Bengal tiger

and his eyes are closed to the diurnal sun.

In the corner of his cage nearest us

there is a spider and a web

indistinguishable from each other

until the wind picks up speed,

tears through one.

                                                      I looked hard

                                                      for the wreckage not to see blood

                                                      but to see bent steel sculpted

                                                      into something resembling art,

                                                      shards of glass morphed, frozen into diamonds in the rough.                                                                

                                                      to see a version of love that is just a life on course;                                                                              

                                                      a temporary animal, a temporary cage,                                                                                              

                                                     lunging forward despite the bars 



Penelope on Loyalty


I escaped once

when no one was looking,

while the suitors slept

in the mess hall

like glazed ceramic ornaments.

I journeyed like you

over vast seas, past destruction

and the place where the world drops off

into nothing. I was, for a moment

just like you, free of castles, expectations,

chessboards and monotonies.


I posed as a Siren

on the 3rd abandoned island

so you could hear me sing.

Now more than a decade wiser,

I wove a shroud of sharps & flats

from desires, leftovers, needs;

an embroidered symphony

thrown out like a sail

over tearing winds,

a net to reel you back in.


But then I glimpsed your ship

barreling forward on knots of speed

and I evaluated your plight simply

for what it was then:

your struggle to land, to be drawn in

thwarted by your bootstraps

the way they clung to the masthead.

The way you’d anchored them.


So I went home alone

unbeknownst to you,

on a crosswind of defeat.

I set about unraveling

the fabric of us, each gesture,

each murmur, each connective thread

and when the suitors crawled

like hermit crabs away from

the table towards our bed,

I thought I got away with it,

I was sure there was nothing left.


Everyday Disciples


Sometimes you see one in traffic,

a Samaritan in a Mazda parting

the sea of angry commuters

so you can finally get in.


Sometimes it’s a guy in the street

who gets a hundred bucks

and immediately spends it on a feast

for other homeless people around him.


Sometimes it’s a dog who sobs

and leaps with joy

when his owner returns

from hospital or war.


Sometimes they pop up, bobbers

on the murky stream of your day:

a smile in a hallway, a genuine question,

“How are you doing?” And then they listen.


Some disciples hide in words,

in gratitude, in every thank you said

but also in the middle finger

of the pissed off driver behind you now,

the one behind the guy that waved you in.


We can hear them in all the voices

that criticize and approve

every failure and win. The rub: we

are their witnesses. Our job: to recognize them.


How we react is just a stone cast into a pond,

one addend in an ongoing equation of signs.

Maybe our responses are disciples too;

watch them ripple and roll over time, trying

to gain momentum, trying to sculpt our shoreline.