Willawaw Journal Spring 2021 Issue 12
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Notes from the Editor
COVER ART: by Daniel DeRoux
Page One: Frank Babcock Paul A. Bluestein Jeff Burt Natalie Callum
Page Two: Daniel DeRoux Dale Champlin Joe Cottonwood Susan Donnelly Judith Edelstein Morgan English
Page Three: Daniel DeRoux Irene Fick Sonia Greenfield Ann Howells Marc Janssen Gabrielle Langley
Page Four: Daniel DeRoux Carolyn Martin Hannah Joyce James Owens John Palen FOLIO Daniel DeRoux
Page Five: Vivienne Popperl Khalisa Rae FOLIO Daniel DeRoux Jessie-Lauren Ratliffe Howard W. Robertson Emalisa Rose
Page Six: Connie Soper Ellen Stone Doug Stone John Steffler Pepper Trail BACK PAGE with Daniel DeRoux
Mosaic of a Spring Day in Quarantine
From the mauve armchair in my living room:
a flowering pink quince hosts a hummingbird.
Urgent leaves evict white blooms from the magnolia tree.
A maple’s tight-fisted reds blur the truck
marked Prime, crawling around a UPS delivery.
This: a spot of time witnessed from a space
I rarely occupy. That’s it.
And yet, for no other reason than to keep
me in my seat, the hero in the novel I was reading
last night before I remembered sleep
jogs up our cul-de-sac.
A mortician in this murder mystery,
he claims people trapped in doomed airplanes
may yearn to leave behind notes of love or regret.
How? Swallow them.
The stomach saves, he maintains and pulls
indicting words from a woman’s cavity.
Worth a morning’s wait.
How else would I know the neighbor
to the south is getting a new flat screen;
the one to the north, a box from Vitacost?
How else would I learn that words
– consumed and absorbed – survive?
Blissfully retired in Clackamas, OR, Carolyn Martin is a lover of gardening and snorkeling, feral cats and backyard birds, writing and photography. Her poems have appeared in more than 130 journals and anthologies throughout North America, Australia, and the UK. Her fifth collection, The Catalog of Small Contentments will be released in 2021. Currently, she is the poetry editor of Kosmos Quarterly: journal for global transformation. Find out more at www.carolynmartinpoet.com.
We ceased naming days
when each one was copy-pasted from the last.
We keep time now by the bubbles in the sourdough starter,
by the fattening of the moon. Friday
is the day the horse-chestnut bloomed.
Monday is the day we ran without stopping.
Sunday is coffee and oranges, too-sunny morning,
aching for Wallace Stevens, but I
left that book in Tucson, back when we were naming days,
and I don’t like reading poems on a computer.
Would rather be lonely than talk
to the glowing facsimile of a friend.
You know, they say
the universe will be timeless one day,
each cold particle spaced evenly from the next.
And yet: I want to hold my time, feel
its weight in my hands. Stroke its hair.
I want to taste its juice. The mango fruit has a pitted scar
like the one on my lover’s arm. They both
hold the past in their flesh, so close
I can smell it. But English speakers are bad at naming scents,
and I don’t know, maybe I couldn’t name mango
without holding its firmness. Maybe
coffee doesn’t mean the same thing if it’s not morning,
stretched out on the blue couch, mug balanced on a book of poems,
feet warm in a puddle of sun.
Could I name the smell of coffee
if it was handed to me on a square of white paper?
Let me taste the smell of springtime
like you placed it on my tongue.
I dreamed I picked two oranges from the tree behind the neighbors’
so this morning I put on my shoes and took my coffee and walked out into the chill
and picked two oranges.
In my dream, the oranges were heavy and wrinkled. One had a dark soft bruise
like an apple, a mark that only made it more alluring.
This morning’s orange was less sweet that I wished —
less sweet than the oranges of my dream
which I never tasted
but knew to be sweet from their heaviness —
but it was thrilling to peel. With each dig of my nails,
a spray of oils: sharp-scented, bright yellow, dousing my hands, my clothes…
And all day I smelled like a dream.
Hannah Joyce (she/her) is a software developer with a background in religious studies. She finds inspiration in queerness, strange plants, and artificial intelligence, and she divides her time between the Sonoran Desert and the coast of Maine.
I dreamed I solved the labyrinth of her fingerprints,
of kissing the blue-veined hollows of her wrists
with their secret bones like the shafts of flutes.
Because the weight of her breasts makes the world better
and is like the drenched weight of roses after rain,
I dreamed the tightening buds’ honeyed ache.
My sleep threaded through the threads of her sleep.
I woke, the hummingbird sun whirring at her throat.
James Owens’s newest book is Family Portrait with Scythe (Bottom Dog Press, 2020). His poems and translations appear widely in literary journals, including recent or upcoming publications in Atlanta Review, Presence, Dappled Things, Wild Court, and Honest Ulsterman. He earned an MFA at the University of Alabama and lives in a small town in northern Ontario.
Squally Weather, Georgian Bay
–F.H. Varley, 1920
They call me the unlucky tree,
say I poison soil, make women barren,
sicken grazing cattle. Those are lies.
I’m a twisted, stocky runt,
but good in hard going.
This is my kind of weather,
north wind pushing whitecaps
under a choppy, bruised-ochre sky.
Feet fixed in the Canadian Shield,
I dance waving my arms.
I hang on to my tight cones,
wait for wildfire to free the seeds.
They find burnt ground, acid bog,
thin soil in granite hollows.
I dig in. I make it work.
It’s years since I’ve been back to this eroded tableland,
wooded peaks at the same elevation,
long climbs to the crests,
long descents to rivers that recite history,
Niangua, Big Piney, Gasconade.
Off the I-44, little towns like Buckhorn, Sleeper,
then farther into the hills, sporadic clusters
of two or three houses along winding roads,
unnamed places, not on a map.
I see a familiar house,
then remember Albert, whose port wine stain
covered half his face, whose peonies,
petunias, sweet alyssum, begonias
were the neighbors’ envy.
One night young men in a car plowed them up,
scattered dirty leaves and flowers in the yard,
the spinning tires such a small hatred
in such a small place.
Cutting Button Blanks on the Illinois River
It was long hours in riverside sheds,
the lineshaft’s rumble and snap,
the drill bit’s whine,
the wet clatter of shell in waste piles
like ice falling from a roof.
It was bread and coffee
until he learned the craft
and stopped getting docked;
then it was salt pork and beans.
It was drinking pain away
Saturday nights in Peoria.
There was art to it,
Elktoe mussels took the drill
a certain way, Wartybacks another.
He sensed his way into the work
with fingers raw from wet sand
and rough hard surfaces,
like the ruined fingers
of Chinese jade carvers
toiling at bench and wheel.
When zippers and plastic came in,
the river harvesters sold off
their crowfoot hooks for scrap.
No one knows anymore
how to drill button blanks
or shape and polish them.
Old, depleted as the mussel beds,
he keeps mother-of-pearl
buttons in a box,
takes them out sometimes
to hold luster in his hand.
Red House and Elevated Train
–Francis Chapin, early 1930s
It’s primeval, starts in the polar vortex,
nothing in its way until it reaches you
walking home through North Town
from the Sedgewick station in a cheap coat,
a damp, stiff wind at your hunched back.
You never knew cold until salty slush
wicked to your feet through leaky shoes
and thin socks. Never knew cold
until a gust straight out of South Dakota
buffeted the L, swerved and came for you
and your porkpie hat. Never knew how cold
until you came to this red brick four-flat
with a jet of snow streaming off the cornice
and you still a long block from home.
The Ridge at Meadowbrook
Long before this was a city park curbed by busy streets,
playground and parking lot at one end,
herb garden and interpretive center at the other;
and before it was cropped land,
with a farmhouse, windmill, barn and corn crib;
even before nomadic Kickapoo, those prodigious walkers,
ranged across it between Ontario and Mexico;
before all of that, it was a windy glaciated ridge,
just beginning to birth wild prairie.
Even now, in winter, you can cross the ridge top
on a paved path through prairie restoration
and feel that same wind, steady and cold,
that made the dry grasses bow to the ground
and rasp and moan to no one’s hearing.
It blows right through you, that wind,
strips your thoughts and scatters them
as if you’d never been.
John Palen is the author of three full-length poetry collections and four chapbooks. His most recent chapbook is Drizzle and Plum Blossoms, a collection of four Song Dynasty poets co-translated with Li C. Tien and published by March Street Press. His latest full-length collection, Distant Music, came out from Mayapple Press in 2017. Palen won the Passages North Poetry Competition in 1989 and was a finalist in the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Competition in 1995. He is a three-time Pushcart nominee.
Palen was an English major at Washington University in St. Louis, where he studied poetry with Donald Finkel. Other mentors have included Judith Kerman, his editor at Mayapple Press, the late Conrad Hilberry, and John Donne’s ghost.
A Missouri native, he has lived all his life in the Midwest. Fifty years of earning his living in journalism made him an outward-facing poet, with strong interests in the natural world, the gifts and restraints of life in small towns, and the history of European colonization of the Plains. Currently he lives in retirement on the Illinois Grand Prairie. He blogs at https://johnpalenspoetryblog.wordpress.com.