My Credentials

By David Wagoner

The uniformed man is trying
to believe in me no harder
than he has to, to believe

I was born on the fifth day
         of June in a blurred year

         and evidently survived

         with the scratched plastic approval
         of officials whose licenses
may be located by mail

or sometimes in the flesh
somewhere some of the time
and am eligible by age,
         which is a kind of birthright,
         for uncertain kinds of treatment
         in doctored offices

         and non-emergency rooms
partly free of charge,

but as he looks from my face
now facing his to the other
given a furry stamp
         of tentative approval

         against its half-turned cheek,
         he hesitates. I remember
         credentials are based on credo,
and he’s having trouble believing
I’m still who this says I am,

but the line at the gateway

is long and deep and restless,
         so he puts what I used to be
         back in my own hands

         with a tired kind of forgiveness
         and tells me to pass on.


David Wagoner has pub- lished 20 books of poems, most recently After the Point of No Return, (Copper Canyon Press, 2012). He has also published ten novels, one of which, The Escape Artist, was made into a movie by Francis Ford Coppola. He won the Lilly Prize in 1991, six yearly prizes from Poetry, two yearly prizes from Prairie Schooner, and the Arthur Rense Prize for Poetry from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2011. In 2007, his play First Class was given 43 performances at A Con- temporary Theatre in Seattle. He was a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets for 23 years. He edited Poetry Northwest from 1966 to 2002, and he is professor emeritus of English at the Univ. of Washington.