Nance Van Winckel
Past Life Reading:Record Keeping

And when the house is finally opened and the tomb of
records found, note the cuneiform numerals marking
important dates of some former history that held you.

Note: we can't say when; their numbers are not our
numbers. Back then the embrace of red stone was immense.
And you: you were a carrier.


Past Life Reading:Returning When the River's Shallow

All the words you read indoors hate you. Hate being
cooped up. Outside, there'd be midnight dialogues
with Debussy. Outside, a river's fed by blue streams.
There words pertain.

Once, you were given the gold ink of your dreams.
Its goldness throbbed in your pen. "Eureka!"

Eureka—a word so insipid the page sloughs it off.

What was crucial to say fell eons ago into deep water.
Then came along what by this later life you should
be (ha, right!) sorely used to: the heavier heaviness
of the oar.


Past Life Reading:Wherewithal

A minute into the play's last scene, silly you, forgot to
breathe. A mistake anyone could make. The set: a train car
heading through jagged mountains. The falling snow of
actors' lines. Dropping softly. Then silently.

Silly you in the cheap seats leaned forward. A little life
inside trying to get out. You thought you knew those lines.
Too bad no breath was left to let them loose.


Nance Van Winckel is the author of eight books of poetry, most recently Our Foreigner,winner of the Pacific Coast Poetry Prize (Beyond Baroque Press, 2017), and Book of No Ledge (Pleiades Press Visual Poetry Series, 2016). Of her five books of fiction, Ever Yrs, a scrapbook novel (Twisted Road Publications, 2014), is her most recent. The recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts poetry fellowships, the Paterson Fiction Prize, a Christopher Isherwood Fiction Fellowship, the Washington State Book Award, and three Pushcart Prizes, Nance teaches in the MFA Program at Vermont College of Fine Arts.