Willawaw Journal Fall 2023 Issue 17
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
COVER ART: "Misty Chief" by Sam Siegel
NOTES FROM THE EDITOR
Page One: Rick Adang Ken Anderson Frank Babcock Lawrence Bridges Page Two: Sam Siegel Jeff Burt David Capps Dale Champlin Kris Demien Amelia Díaz Ettinger Page Three: Sam Siegel John S. Eustis Ann Farley Suzy Harris Wendell Hawken Gary Lark Page Four: Sam Siegel Stefanie Lee Marilyn McCabe Frank C. Modica Cecil Morris John Muro Page Five: Sam Siegel LeeAnn Olivier Darrell Petska Vivienne Popperl Lindsay Regan Erica Reid Page Six: Sam Siegel Sher A. Schwartz Roberta Senechal de la Roche Annette Sisson Derek R. Smith Connie Soper Page Seven: Sam Siegel Jude Townsend Pepper Trail Arianne True Lana Valdez BACK PAGE with Sam Siegel
My parents could not promise when we arrived
that we would not stay put for good
for they were experts at leaving, a hug,
a wave, an overloaded car
following the moving van as if we did not know
where it was headed
but wherever it was headed was good enough.
Our crying stopped in the distance
between our town and the next.
My mother said the friends we lost we would gain back
except they’d be new faces in new places.
But as we moved to the next place
the number diminished, until at the end of the moves
there were no friends left.
My father said we always had each other, but then
I left in November.
My mother died before Thanksgiving.
The memorial had turkey, potatoes, and squash.
Snow fell that day. I had desired a casket
to carry, but her body had been cremated, ash like snow.
She had spoken in tremolo, a fluctuating and warm sound,
and in the whiteout the memory of her voice
seemed to clear the road. The next day under more snow
the road could not hear her voice any longer.
Since that November, I searched for the road
that carried her song, that burned off the cold,
through one town and the next, never settled,
a Main Street, a side street, a lane the wind could empty.
One year after my mother died, I walked a path
in a field of reeds with my father to an opening in a marsh
where geese and egrets congregate before flying south.
Wisdom had once flown out of his mouth,
but wit and humor had left him, and the following spring
when I returned, the geese had not come back, and never would.
I chose to fast on Thanksgiving, took a narrow road
east from the college to an esker
where Ojibwe drummed and I drank so much tea
I jittered, clenched my teeth
and muscles and beat my feet to an awkward rhythm.
I could not dance.
I had lived ten lives in ten towns until college
and the constant mooring, unmooring made me travel lightly
as if I had stored my heavy possessions at my parents’ home
and would return for them later. I never returned.
When I married, I carried my bride into an apartment
and felt in my arms the weight of my life,
a joy I could forever suspend, inhabit,
a transiting home that stayed in one place.
My brother wears boots to tramp the swamp.
Even in summer, he tells, there’s invisible water
below each step, up to an inch, and ruin
comes to leather. Once, he said, the suck
of the soggy turf took one tennis shoe
and he was made to hop on return,
felt like a wounded cricket, except he can’t sing.
Larch thickets and paper birch populate
like mangroves in a coastal glade.
It’s where you grew up, he says,
where you return. Home.
Midges and non-malarial mosquitos prevail
but for a constant brushing with flailing arms
like window wipers in a storm. It always feels
like you’re playing charades with children
showing them an awkward flight, a propeller
of a plane or wings beating against the air.
They get it right away. The midges don’t.
I’ve had the opportunity in spring to stand
on the side of the road near the swamp
when the water is six inches deep
and watch deer wade, wonder where they hide
in such muck. Their hides look clean,
and somehow, they pick their way and hooves
don’t sink and foals follow almost dry.
It exhausts the eye to wait for them to move
any length, and who as a kid could watch
an asphalt truck take a day to lay
a short stretch of road? That’s the pace
in the swamp, not slow, but unseen,
requiring the patience of evolution,
one mutation on another, or none at all.
Standing on the road, I could see through
the looking glass of water to the sealed wood
of birches and the tangled mass of larch
and within the mess a thousand things
in swarm, nothing bigger than a tadpole,
darting, resting, molting, devouring,
some with those tiny bubbles of air
they’ve drawn from the surface
still attached to their heads,
astronauts or argonauts of their own dimension.
I got down on hands and knees
and admired the goo, water thick
from winter melt, and felt grateful
for this, and for rising from rickety knees
that popped so loud it scared the tadpoles.
I saw far off an egret gauging my interest
with that one-eyed look, a parent perhaps,
wary of my venture into its children’s park.
I felt at home there, but like a relative’s home
at which your intended stay is short,
for after all, I’d evolved, no more gel
and motive tail, I’d become a modern nomad
traveling from one territory to another
for work, and home had become
what I carried, like a burden, on my back.
Jeff Burt lives in Santa Cruz County, California, spending the seasons dodging fires, floods, earth-shaking, and all the other scrambling life-initiatives. He has contributed to Heartwood, Tiny Seeds Journal, Vita Poetica, and Willows Wept Review. He has a chapbook. Little Popple River, for free download at Red Wolf Editions.
Ithaka (Concept Island)
as if here you could combine things in such an order
that the gleam of sudden violence ends
(did the suitors need need to die?)
what humanity wrought gradually—its war and pestilence
dripping from the curve of the moon
or else to lessen it, to see it lessen, like some mirage
peeling from the road’s dusty lip
where loquat, figs, apricots, and sage undo their straggly strangling
climb to the fence (neither is the road very real)
to be as starfish
they move in glass sheets of water the auburn of autumn leaves
David Capps is a philosophy professor and poet who lives in New Haven, CT. He is the author of four chapbooks: Poems from the First Voyage (The Nasiona Press, 2019), A Non-Grecian Non-Urn (Yavanika Press, 2019), Colossi (Kelsay Books, 2020), and Wheatfield with a Reaper (Akinoga Press, forthcoming). His latest work, On the Great Duration of Life, a riff on Seneca’s On the Shortness of Life, is available from Schism Neuronics.
I Want Something Tangible
–after Arianne True
When I wake up in the night
and the hundred-year-old tree
in front of my house is on fire—
red orange light pouring
into my bedroom window.
I want something more substantial
than longing or nostalgia.
I think of my childhood fear—
my parents are not home
and my house is on fire.
Even worse, it is my parents
themselves that are burning
laid out in their marital bed.
Some of us are raised by wolves,
the way they circle each other
and bay at the moon.
My grandchildren want flattened
pennies. These days there’s a machine
than does that, not the train
passing by every three AM.
My childhood inferno burns.
After the firemen and one firewoman
have come and gone—
the smell of accelerant lingers,
sputtering in the back of my throat.
I remember my parents, Adam and Eve,
beautiful and naked—
no murderous brother in sight.
Today Joyous as a Court of Kinglets
I am the blossom blooming in late autumn,
drinking in sweet rain—
I am the mountain, the still green clover,
I am the lover nestled in our pillowy bed
I am breakfast,
the first egg of morning
yoke golden and glorious
I am food on the Thanksgiving table
warm from the oven
after days of preparation,
the tart tang of cranberries,
white rolls tender on the inside
yams doused with butter
and gravy poured from a ladle
I am water rushing from the mountaintop,
spilling from the kitchen faucet,
I am the patient grandmother
of the hearthside-flickering fire
I am the baker, the rolling pin,
and the sparkling pie plate
the cherries bursting with sweetness
I am the heart overflowing with joy—
my white hair, my walk around the park
on this early November morning
where a late rose blooms bright as the rising sun
and a flock, a court, a dynasty of kinglets,
flits from twiggy branch to branch
each leaf-small bird
chittering in the language of love.
Dale Champlin, an Oregon poet with an MFA in fine art, has poems in The Opiate, Timberline, Pif, and Triggerfish Critical Review among other journals. Dale has three poetry collections; The Barbie Diaries, Callie Comes of Age, 2021, and Isadora, 2022. Three additional collections, Leda, Medusa, and Andromina, A Stranger in America are forthcoming. For more information: dalechamplin.com
What One Vet Left Behind
A dozen towels, washed, folded
and stacked on shelves in the bathroom
A clean tub, refrigerator, and stove
His grandfather’s tie clips,
cuff links and WW2 metals
A large jar of peppermint lifesavers
Half-dozen watch caps, one with a light in front
suitable for scanning a large parking lot
Half-dozen baseball hats in various sizes and colors,
one emblazoned with the word “Security”
in gold on the crown and brim
Three electric shaving kits suitable for beards
and heads with assorted guides for length
Several issues of Heavy Metal magazine
Four large boxes of paperback fantasy and sci-fi novels
Three cases of DVDs, mostly superhero adventures,
thrillers, and heist movies
Stacks of D&D game scenario notes
mixed with bank statements and personal records
T-shirts, some 40 years old, from Berlin,
Hawaii, Wisconsin, the Army, birthday gifts
A dozen pairs of black pants, waist-sizes
from 32 to 44, pants length always 36
Fifty pairs of socks, mostly black, some with ankle supports
Three pairs of work boots with thick treads
Photos of the family in random order
Prints of his children’s in vitro ultrasounds
in a baggy with locks of their hair
A small tin holding their baby teeth
Kris Demien lives with multiple species in Portland, Oregon. Her work appears in VoiceCatcher, The Poeming Pigeon/Sports issue and Willawaw Journal.
the number three appeared
in a cloud as clear and tangible
as the Esso sign
at the corner
of Betances and Gautier
in the car on the way to school
riding with one of my fathers
the sign of the petrol station
always helped me distinguish
the number three from the letter E
now i know what the cloud
tried to tell me,
that the 3 and the letter E
are the things i no longer have
their voices filled my narrow world,
the cultivated chatter of medicine
in a cumulous baritone
that shouted verses of Darío
but not Neruda
the oldest set me straight
for nuns and school,
the youngest to the movies
— mira, que cómico es Cantinflas
to show me the México he missed
and I didn’t remember
and there was one,
the one I loved best,
whose too wide shoulders folded
to showed me how to use a blade of grass
to catch anoles and reveries
but like that cloud over Boardman,
dispersing softly into nothingness
one by one they went—
First, was Paco, whose cheek, like adiabatic cooling,
left a hardened tenderness on my lips
as his body was carted away by a nurse
—this isn’t good for you, she said
as she ushered me out of the room
out of my begging for him to stay
Then, was Moisés. Whose last breath
carried his bride’s name
in his untimely death, he took
the memory of my birth
and the songs
—México lindo y querido
si muera lejos de ti…
and Euclides, whose every atom
was my atmosphere,
my cloudless sky,
he is the one,
from whom I still
had so much to learn
the one who should have stayed
Amelia Díaz Ettinger is a Latinx BIPOC poet and writer. Amelia’s poetry and short stories have been published in anthologies, literary magazines, and periodicals. She has an MS in Biology and MFA in creative writing. Her literary work is a marriage of science and her experience as an immigrant. Presently, she resides in Eastern Oregon.