Willawaw Journal Spring 2020 Issue 9
Willawaw Journal Spring 2020 Issue 9
Notes from the Editor
COVER ART: Claire Burbridge (see Pack Page for artist statement)
Table of Contents:
Page One: Hugh Anderson Susan Ayres Frank Babcock Nan C Ballard
Page Two: Claire Burbridge Sarah Bigham Dale Champlin Joe Cottonwood Steven Croft Barbara Daniels
Page Three: Claire Burbridge Shannon Finck Irene Fick Dan Gallagher Suzy Harris Marilyn Johnston
Page Four: Claire Burbridge Tricia Knoll Dana Knott Bruce McRae Francis Opila John Palen
Page Five: Claire Burbridge Emily L. Pate Vivienne Popperl Bill Ratner Sarah Degner Riveros Kim Stafford
Page Six: Doug Stone Paul Suter Samuel Swauger Guinotte Wise Nicole Zdeb BACK PAGE with Claire Burbridge
Born in a San Francisco Tributary
First night back in my childhood home after
the remodel, the AC kicks awake into a familiar
trip-note. A driftwood angel casts long wings
over a newly white wall, sepia exiled
to attic living. Only some shapes are the same,
the backsteps still a place to sit and scrape all sweetness
from early oranges.
Living North, I miss the coyote hills of California,
yellow with dead grass, mustard flower, and afternoon heat
only swimming cold water can wring out. Summers
and summers ago, before fire was just another seasonal thing,
the Blankenship boys dug all through these hills, building
better air for their bikes. Every year since
it’s all churned into firebreak. Earth upturned,
roots to the air, full of distance.
Emily L. Pate is a writer, creative writing mentor, and obscure fact collector originally from California and currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia. Her poetry and creative nonfiction have been published in Blending Magazine and The Northwest Passage.
Deschutes River Dream
The river is green opaque, swift.
Current runs steady, deep.
Reeds sway at river’s edge.
Hooded Mergansers rustle,
break free. Tree-swallows cut the sky
into blue scraps above yellow kayaks.
An osprey folds black wings,
plummets head down into glassy depths,
emerges, a line of silver between its talons.
We three bicyclists roll down the path
beside the river. Sunshine glints, blinds.
We turn to cross the wooden bridge.
Tires thud, bump across each joint between planks.
We stop, look back along the river.
A woman appears among the ponderosa pines.
Tendrils of grey hair escape her green straw hat,
a scarf threaded tightly through the brim,
knotted below her chin. I recognize her upright stance,
her direct glance. My mother stands poised at an easel,
slim black paintbrush between her fingers.
For a long minute she stares at us.
Then she is gone.
When I awake I search for the painting.
There’s the bridge arching over the green river.
There are the three cyclists. There, the brown dog.
There, always, the blue sky.
Vivienne Popperl lives in Portland, Oregon. Her poetry has appeared in several publications including VoiceCatcher, Persimmon Tree Journal, Oyster River Pages, and Willawaw Journal, and is forthcoming in Cirque and The Clackamas Literary Review. She was honored to serve as a poetry co-editor for the Fall 2017 edition of VoiceCatcher, an online journal of women’s voices and vision.
Wabash Banner Blue
A night of trees and winds
a dreamless sleep
a shutter opens
nursing in brumal air
moans of the slowing Wabash train
a stretch of Pullman cars
the house cracks
all is weightless
out my window
coiled on the lawn
a behemoth with a witch’s purse
a sack of stunned blood in a thicket.
I must not stir I must not look
I must not wander on this night.
Damn the ones who taught me
If I should die before I wake.
To alarm the daemon I clap like a blowout, sing arias,
scuttle down the stairs to the steak knife drawer.
Careful not to rouse the creature’s eye I flee the house.
At the edge of the wood a skeleton rises shrieking Emergo!
Skeletons don’t scare me
I sniff for meat,
bullets don’t scare me
I survived one for my mother’s breast
one for my brother’s kidneys
one for my father’s heart.
They will aid me now.
I scale the cemetery wall,
at my father’s grave
I kick aside a clump of grass.
And in the ground on a Bible-sized stone
my stepmother’s name
her oblivion, her coffee cup reeking of whiskey
all the good cooking and car rides.
I didn’t save her jewelry
I sold it for blow.
My father died on his stairlift
a copy of The Raven in his lap.
I pulled him down, laid him out
and breathed into his blue mouth,
nothing but the sound of soup inside him.
I want to hear his voice
his South Chicago twang
the word car as hard as ore
I want to sleep in his bed
he might call at a late hour.
My mother’s grave surrounded
by old stones of family I never knew,
I see her, the vividness of her
bubbles of mercury
the green flash.
A cavernous scream slashes the air
behemoth on the graveyard floor
pulses its stunted wings.
If fate rips me like a leaf
I have made arrangements with my family.
In that final blaring moment
throttled by monster death
my mind will make myth
and I will see them all again.
They will gather in a sleeping car
aboard the Wabash Banner Blue
gingerly pull closed my compartment door
my fear of monsters and the dark no more.
Bill Ratner is a 9-time winner of The Moth Story Slams in Los Angeles, poetry and essays published in Chiron Review, Baltimore Review, Rattle Magazine’s Rattlecast, KYSO Flash, The Missouri Review Audio. Spoken-word performances featured on National Public Radio’s Good Food, The Business, and KCRW’s Strangers. http://billratner.com/author
Since we grew up and left home,
Christmas has never been the same.
There’s that photo in the photo album,
Of the suburban pre-teen Texas years:
Four homeschooled kids, dressed as
Joseph and Mary (I’m holding a doll),
A shepherd swings a staff at my head,
I look demure. He misses the shot.
My baby sister is white as an angel,
Hair electrified by her own powerful
Presence, blonde rat’s naptime nest
Her only helmet against terror,
Her eyes full of otherworldly fire.
Mom rented sheep and a cow,
Took pictures of every kid in the
Sunday school dressed as a manger
Scene. Holly’s mom nearly stabbed
Me with bobby pins that day to keep
A veil over my hair. Mom, who never
Slept past 4 AM in those days, recorded
Our voices caroling in harmony,
“Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.”
Sarah Degner Riveros was born in Chicago and grew up in Texas; she studied at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Universitat de Barcelona, and Columbia University in New York where she earned a doctorate in Spanish literature. She teaches at Augsburg University in Minneapolis, Minnesota where she is currently working on an MFA in poetry and creative nonfiction. Her work has appeared in Brain; Child, Mothering, Bearings, New Beginnings, Murphy Square Quarterly, and forthcoming in Yes Poetry, Azahares, and Porridge. She is a single mother of five children.
At Klamath Marsh
Say it: Klamath… Klamath Marsh.
Can you feel the ooze, the muddy ease,
the seep and soft welcome and antiquity
of water? Can you follow the canoe trail
through grasses that part along a seam
your prow divides? Can you feel the tingle
of a thousand geese lifting off, beating
their wind-drum staccato hum of yearning?
Can you see how the sun layers color
up from the ripple skin into strata of the sky?
Can you apprehend through time’s mist how
the people heaped wocus root, dyed yellow
baskets with seed, lined pits with tule
to store a season of ripe survival? Can
you still hear the smoky story of children
leaving their spirit voices but burrowing
down through the fire to get away? Can
you stand by the water with a friend,
who tells what the tribe was, and will be?
Can you name the wocus, the cuicui,
lamprey, dace, the snubnose chub,
willow, cattail, tule, beaked sedge, spikerush,
diatomaceous earth, hemic, sapric, limnic,
the algae, the eagle tree, pelicans skimming
flat reflections stern as glass? So say it,
Klamath… Klamath Marsh, and sag
into muck, loyal to old ways, deep beliefs,
sturdy honor in concentric ooze, each
thud of your steps on hollow ground
learning from the wocus root how
to be home here, how to be woven in,
to be rooted deep in sacred mud.
This poem was first published in Terrain.org and in Kim’s little book, Reunion of the Rare: Oregon Poems, by Kim Stafford (Little Infinities, 2018).
Kim Stafford is the current Oregon Poet Laureate. You may find out more about him on the drop-down menu for poet laureate prompts (spring 2020) or use this direct link.