The Works of Dennis Vannatta 

Dennis has published poems in Panhandler, Paintbrush, and elsewhere and three collections of short stories, This Time, This Place and Prayers for the Dead (both by White Pine Press) and Lives of the Artists (Livingston Press).

All Poems © Dennis Vannatta

The Ghost Writer

I go in search of old editors,
Three-score years at least.
Old enough to remember when
cream was on the milk
and the gear shift on the column,
and when you played with your
cock, it played back.
That spent world.

I want an editor who remembers
when your left knee didn’t swell
and your left eyelid didn’t twitch
and you didn’t stand up in stages
and then say, What was it
that I stood up for?
Whatever it was important to do,
you have done. There remains
only the remembrance.
I want an editor who understands
that remembrance is a dry thing,
a ghost mourning its body,
a stem without sap.

All the prizes go to the young
poets these days! Well,
so it was in my day,
too. The world for the young,
poetry for the young.
Hip hip, hooray . . .
But grant me one editor,
at least one, who knows
how it feels to fade away.
I go in search of a ghost editor,
an editor for ghosts.


Your Last, Best Dream

Look yourself in the eye and admit this:
your last, best dream is not wealth, or health,
or to run across green fields and snatch white balls
out of the bright air, no,
not even youth, although to be sure
youth is a good dream.
Not Nancy with a tiny silk butterfly,
pink, where the cups of her bra met,
and lips so soft that when you kissed her
you could feel the braces on her teeth.
(O, sweet sweet sixteen.) But not Nancy.
Nor Helen, sixty, who loves you with a love
that is purer, you say, deeper and stronger
than that love, that Nancy love. And maybe so.
But, my friend, no matter what you tell yourself,
it’s not love, either. No. At the end
you’ll know that your last, best dream
is not to die.