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C.N.P Poetry 

  • Writer's pictureCathexis Northwest Press

Sweeping Back the Thieves; Milkman; The Wounded King Takes a Knee

By: Ed McManis

Sweeping Back the Thieves

Snow all night, caught the furnace

sleeping, our car with four

bald tires, your naked body

still outlined by summer’s bronze finger.

I wake after midnight

to the sound of mittens clapping,

cold as the dream where I kiss

my dead mother’s cheek and wake

in your arms weeping.

Hunched over coffee I witness

this new world, naïve as any explorer

who believes his footprint is first.

Cattle steam under the moon,

the frost in the wind whispers,

All miseries begin with flowers.

Each September drifts higher against our door.

On the porch railing a sparrow

crowned with frost hops twice,

blinks, flies. Silence rests in the wedge

where her tail brushes the snow.

In the morning we’ll thaw

against the red chill

of the frozen rooster’s cry.


I still leave the light on

for him even though he got fired

years ago; leave the white

box with its ornate blue

crest in the corner of the porch

where it rests like a happy

memory from a holiday

no longer celebrated,

its song muted.

Sometimes at night I wake

in the dead crease

between three and four

a.m., hear the wooden lid

thwack and I fall back asleep

to dream of that cold glass

quart bottle sweating,

slick in my hands, lift it

like a chunk of light against

the orange dawn, scare

the shadows back into the earth.

I wake alone, sit alone

at my breakfast nook,

sip my first cup of coffee


listen for the truck.

The Wounded King Takes a Knee

In this dream the house you’re lost

in is a metaphor for death or maybe

it’s work, one of your parents;

it’s hard to interpret signs

these days in the green rooms

of our brains.

Used to be cars were your ego,

ladders, decisions; slides, resolutions.

Any phallic image—your Id.

Symbols were predictable; dreams resolved.

Caves and shells? The girls longed

after in junior high, high school—

your college love by the crashing

waves, foamy tides, cliffs glinting with


lost in her own dreams, leaving

you for another woman who couldn’t


Becoming someone’s hero

is a dream, too.

One morning you’ll awake without

dreaming, that feeling of ethereal

emptiness, some ghost gone through

your pockets, your wedding rings

switched, children gone, options

reduced to one.

You’ll suddenly realize numbers

aren’t metaphors; metaphors,

a cheaper truth and truth, the bed

dreamed and re-dreamed, made,

unmade in this world and the next.


Ed McManis is a writer, editor, erstwhile Head of School, and father—not always in that order. His work has appeared in more than 50 publications, including The Blue Road Reader, California Quarterly, Cathexis, Narrative, etc. He, along with his wife, Linda, have published esteemed author Joanne Greenberg’s (I Never Promised You a Rose Garden) latest novel, Jubilee Year. He has two grown sons and two granddaughters.Little known trivia fact: he holds the outdoor free-throw record at Camp Santa Maria: 67 in a row.

Interview with the Poet:

Cathexis Northwest Press:

How long have you been writing poetry?

Ed McManis:

I started very young, mostly with song lyrics emulating the Beatles, Herman's Hermits, Dave Clark Five.


Can you remember the first poem you read that made you fall in love with poetry?


We had these Childcraft volumes, one with poetry, verse. I got hooked on Edward Lear, limericks, the poem "Eletelephony" by Laura Elizabeth Richards. Then Alan Sherman, who was a great antidote to the heavy church verses which surrounded me.


Who are your favorite poets? Any specific poems?


Oh, so many favorites. Lists and lists and I want to invite them all to my party. Joe Hutchison (my mentor), Linda Lancione, Rita Kiefer, Yusuf Komunyakaa ( I had some poems in the same journal with him in the 80s); David Lehman, Marc Zegans, Yeats. I'm currently re-reading Charles Simic, Robert Bly. Favorite poems? Another long list: Edson's "Counting Sheep"; Kooser's "The Urine Specimen"; Logan's "Gray's Anatomy" Thomas' "Fern Hill".


Can you share for us a little bit about your writing process? Any specific rituals that get you in the zone?


My zones seem to be anytime & anywhere. Schedules don't work great for me. I like coffee shops, bookstores, patios, boring team meetings; places where I can sit on the edge & observe.


How do you decide the form for your poems? Do you start writing with a form in mind, or do you let the poem tell you what it will look like as you go?


I let the poem emerge. I think of Joanne Greenberg's direction for discerning the "type" of writing; novel, short story, or other. You get a package in the mail, and you're not sure if it's the birdhouse or the bicycle kit. Eventually you know when you discover you were building a birdhouse & it was a bicycle. Oops.


Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice?


Yes. send me $19.95, cash, check.., but seriously.... Your voice, your quest; your time, your sweat equity. Rent feedback; you don't need to buy it. Sound like yourself.


What is your editing process like?


The last day of middle school. It's a series of chaotic meetings with the pages until one of us blinks.


When do you know that a poem is finished?


When it's time to go to bed. You can fiddle things to death. You'll get that warning when you start saying the same thing three different ways; you're trying to "gild the lily."


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