Richard Wakefield


The Grapevine

When someone tells me someone says I said
some mean or stupid thing, I shake my head
and patiently explain that what I meant
was empathetic and intelligent.
And three or four times out of five, that’s true.
The grapevine always seems to misconstrue
the best things that I say into the worst.
It’s strange; the process never is reversed.
No mean or stupid thing I say, I find,
gets twisted into something smart and kind.


Man wasn’t meant to be monogamous.
The terrorists we tortured lied to us.
I would have dropped my gun if he’d dropped his.
It all depends on what you mean by “is.”
I’m on the wagon now. I stick to beer.
We thought they’d have an A-bomb in a year.
She could have passed for eighteen any day.
The media twist everything we say.
More handouts lead to more dependency.
Another set of books? That’s SOP.
No law offends a loyal citizen.
They’re better off as slaves to Christian men.
When everybody cheats, you have to cheat.
The woman that you gave me bade me eat.


Richard Wakefield earned his Ph.D. in American Literature from the University of Washington in 1983.  His book on the poetry of Robert Frost, Robert Frost and the Opposing Lights of the Hour, was published in 1984.  Since 1985 he’s been a book critic for the Seattle Times, reviewing poetry, fiction, and biography, with several hundred publications to date.  He has taught writing and American literature at the University of Washington, Central Washington University, The Evergreen State College, and, since 1985, as tenured faculty at Tacoma Community College. His first poetry collection, East of Early Winters, won the Richard Wilbur Award in 2006, and his poem “Petrarch” won the 2010 Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award.  His new collection,  A Vertical Mile, was published by Able Muse Press in 2012.  His poems, reviews, short stories, and articles have appeared in American Literature, The Midwest Quarterly, The Sewanee Review, The Seattle Review, The Atlanta Review, Light, Able Muse, The Robert Frost Review, The Journal of the William James Society, and others.  Venues for his readings have included the Robert Frost Farm in Derry, New Hampshire, and the national conference of the American Literature Association in Boston.