In the Winter 2018 Issue 5, Elizabeth Woody’s stone-heavy haunting of a poem, My Brother, and the series of puzzling prompts that is a Cebu, have drawn from Willawaw contributors a wide range of responses, taking us in or up or to distant isles. Some brave souls even combined the two prompts with startling and effective results (beginning with Carolyn Adams and later, with Susan Morse). Add the serendipity of Pollard’s and Chisholm’s collages which, by nature, invite the reader to make connections, and you find another version of making meaning out of disparate elements.
These poems are filled with grief and loss of brothers or family. Marjorie Power’s absent brother is “a pulsing silence.” In Laura LeHew’s “After the Eulogy,” we are numbed with “cheese slices, potato salad, salad salad, and baked beans.” Some of the Cebu also explore loss and invite the poets to leap down the page with daring, adventure, peril, escape, and the fantastic—as if striving to harness a cataclysmic energy. The poets’ explorations resonate profoundly with the sense of peril and cataclysm in “real time.” These are the poets’ voices, as Catherine McGuire has put it, in her poem Response, “who kept writing amid the turmoil and sorrow.” This fierceness demands our attention.
Interspersed, you will find small oases of calm such as Isa Jennings’ Beyond Belief, Gyl Gita Elliott’s The Fifth Element, Vincent Wixon’s Surface Tension, and Dale Champlin’s Coming Home. John Van Dreal also offers a rich landscape of the Willamette Valley. I hope that you enjoy reading this issue and that you will share what you like with your friends.
From the depths of the Winter Solstice,
Once in the pit of a late afternoon,
my father lay in a room, alone.
A small machine,
its tubes and cables delicate as fish bones,
encircled his failing body.
Its hum could be called
Now I’m with my father.
Amber glyphs shimmer on a black screen.
Women in white shoes
hush in and out of the room,
sweep the long blue curtain closed,
remove a table.
A man with a kind face
turns and hands me a clipboard
with a paper on it I can’t read.
I’m given a pen.
In the hallway, two boys laugh softly
as they ride their wheeled shoes
to the vending machine
in a further wing.
My brother sits quietly beside me.
We’re in large chairs
at a small desk
in a corner office.
My mother is nearby, immobile.
The three of us are
a broken triangle.
Sunset splashes from a window
to coat all the surfaces
in the room,
and I am about to sign
my name on the paper.
I don’t want to,
because it is a mountain
I don’t want to climb.
But I do it.
A slow retreat of needles,
switches closed, circuitry shut down.
As we leave, a receptionist
hands me a fistful of
red poppies. I hand them back.
I don’t want to claim the stain
of their bloody fire.
The Blue Boat
A boy and a girl in a blue boat
cruise the bay,
rowing in broad strokes,
each weighing in on the burden.
Here is the hard white of the sun.
There, a heron’s elegant gesture
in the salt shallows.
The boy has tied flies,
he’s shown his sister how to tie them,
bunching pinched feathers
with tiny knots
on a hook’s crooked grin.
He has made other lures,
shining drops of silver
hammered to spoons.
She watches them flutter
like wings, underwater.
Gulls call overhead.
Fish browse beneath the boat.
Spools of filament are reeled in,
then played out again.
The wide sky reflects
in the bay’s wavelets.
A thrashing perch breaks the surface,
its mouth thrown open,
the hook pinned in its lip.
The girl removes the fish,
and hands it to the boy.
They row slowly home,
the oars drawing through gray water.
They climb from the boat
to a weather-polished pier.
The day’s catch dangles on a string,
dripping diamonds from gleaming skins.
They are always this age,
the boy and the girl.
They’ll always stay the same.
Carolyn Adams‘ poetry and art have been widely published. She has authored four chapbooks, and was nominated for a Pushcart prize, as well as for Best of the Net 2017. She was a finalist for 2013 Houston Poet Laureate. Having relocated from Houston, TX, she now resides in Beaverton, OR.
and wrap our faces in cellophane.
Matthew D. Allen, originally from Brookings, Oregon, now lives in Portland where he spends much of his time working with and climbing city trees. Find more of his work at zigward.com
Three Peaks on Kilimanjaro
Once on the border between a dream and the Indian Ocean
my father had turned into a fish. I carried his bones in a pail.
The water was warm as a bath and blue as paint
but I would only go knee-deep.
My brother and his friend were riding giant mantas
through the surf, shouting and laughing. Already taller
than I would ever be.
Sunset kindled the glaciers on the three peaks of Kilimanjaro
to the briefest of glories. Twilight lasted seconds. Then
there were flies—no, beetles—
cold green specks of dancing fire.
Tiel Aisha Ansari is a Sufi warrior poet. Her work has been featured by Fault Lines Poetry, Windfall, KBOO and Prairie Home Companion among others. Her books include Knocking from Inside and High-Voltage Lines. She works as a data analyst for the Portland Public School district and is president emerita of the Oregon Poetry Association. Visit her online at knockingfrominside.blogspot.com .
Delores Pollard has returned to collage in her 7th decade after a lengthy hiatus. For more about her, see the Back Page of this issue of Willawaw.