Willawaw Journal Spring 2023 Issue 16
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
COVER ART: "Silver Stars" acrylic on paper by Rachel Coyne
NOTES FROM THE EDITOR
Page One: Frank Babcock Stephen Barile Jeff Burt Dale Champlin
Page Two: Rachel Coyne Kris Demien Amelia Diaz Ettinger John Dorroh Ann Farley Irene Fick Page Three: Rachel Coyne C. Desirée Finley Karen George Philip Hammial Suzy Harris Rosalie Hendon Page Four: Rachel Coyne Addison Hoggard Marc Janssen Penelope Moffet Anis Mojgani Robert Nisbet Page Five: Rachel Coyne Darrell Petska Neal Ostman Vivienne Popperl Daniel A. Rabuzzi Emily Ransdell Page Six: Rachel Coyne Lindsay Rockwell Jim Ross Heather Stearns William R. Stoddart Doug Stone Page Seven: Rachel Coyne Sarah B. Sullivan Pepper Trail Paul Willis BACK PAGE with Rachel Coyne
This issue includes multiple themes: poverty, unemployment, lost, trauma, drought—but also play, humor, and maybe our one hope for survival: recognizing the value of all living beings. So you will find a poem about raccoons (Babcock), a hummingbird (Moffet), crows (Stone and Harris) , a bear (Stearns), ospreys (Rabuzzi), and some chickens (Petska). Petska says it well when he imagines the “surveilling eyes” of his chickens, assessing him from the other side, and wondering if he was worth their investment.
Two poems honor insects not usually considered honorable in Trail’s “To the Hornet” and Sullivan’s “Against Glass.”
Anis Mojgani’s prompt, “Shake the Dust”, inspires some listing, ranting, rambling, and celebrating in the works of Champlin, Dorroh, Hammial, and Hoggard—pushing boundaries, sometimes making sense into nonsense, following the stream that is consciousness, playing with words. (After reading Hoggard, see if the word “country” ever feels the same!)
Three poets address memories, how they can haunt (Fick), how the less desirable memories can open the poet to the joyful ones (Finley), how remembering is like time travel to places you did not know you cherished until they were gone (Popperl).
And of course several poets did time travel—to the first romance of a schoolboy (Stoddart), to sorting mixed raisin boxes by grower on a cement slab in the heat of Fresno (Barile), or to culling through Puerto Rican cultural experiences her children will never know (Ettinger).
This issue is full of surprises, including the artwork of Rachel Coyne which I found unsettling at first glance but then could not look away. Her images are like poems in that something is left out. These narrative pieces are deliberately enigmatic. See her BACK PAGE for a bit of insight.
I hope you are as tickled and touched as I am in reading this issue. It seems to offer a map for healing. Spring is coming. Mojgani concludes, “when the world knocks at your door . . .run into its big, big hands with open arms.”
Yours in poetry,
The Racoon Tree
Our good friends, Duane and Heather,
have lived in their house forty years,
stewards of a large cherry tree.
They look forward with anticipation
to the black cherries each June,
though they never get to taste any.
It is known as the Raccoon Tree.
After blossoms drop in spring
a raccoon sleeps in the tree every day,
keeping an eye on future cherries.
Imagine the local ringtail clan
drawing straws each morning before bed,
the loser spending the day in the tree.
When the cherries show the slightest blush
all raccoons spend the evenings there,
stuffing their bandit faces full of red cherries,
dropping the telltale signs under the tree,
cherry seed scat. Picture them
dark nights roosting, bellies full, playing cards
with their little hands, snickering and chattering
like they’re wont to do, telling human jokes.
Not a single Bing ripens enough
for Duane and Heather to savor a taste.
They satisfy themselves at the window each night
by watching the glowing eyes in the tree,
and rogue cherries tumbling down.
Blackberry vines arch in temptation,
making wildlife tunnels,
sustaining all manner of small beings:
birds, mice, insects even rabbits.
These vines are known for a trinity:
berries, barbs and prolific growth.
Often the sticky canes billow out
toward the meadows.
When the brush catches your clothing,
best just to plow through.
Any attempt to use finesse
just creates more tangle, like a spider web.
When grabbed by the skin, though,
don’t yank away. Just relax, back up,
let the bush let go a little at a time.
Don’t lay down and close your eyes
in the proximity of these briar patches
like Rip van Winkle did in the Catskills
when he met a band of mysterious Dutchmen.
You might wake up twenty years later
with a long white beard, sticks and thorns
holding you fast to the earth,
needing to be fed with a spoon
for the rest of your days.
Frank Babcock lives in Corvallis, Oregon and is a retired Albany middle school teacher and owner of a bamboo nursery. He writes poetry to share the strange thoughts that rattle around in his head and to get them off his mind. He started with an interest in the beatnik poets, Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg. He has a long way to go and much to write before he sleeps. Poems published in the local Advocate, Willawaw Journal, and Panoplyzine.
The Slab was Purgatory
A day was as cool as it would get.
The boss was never there
At the slab, five-acres of oiled-dirt,
When we came to work at 7:00
While the day was still serene.
We guessed the boss drove by
Not stopping, checking for our cars
Around the time to start work.
The job, sorting long avenues
Of mixed raisin pick-boxes,
Grower’s names stenciled on them.
Emptied at the packinghouse,
An assortment by the hundreds,
Stacked fifteen feet high,
Ended up here on the slab
Outside of town, until October
When the growers came here
To take their pick-boxes away.
The boss came around to check-up
Three times during the day
To insure we were working;
10 A.M., lunch, and at 3:00 P.M.,
And deliver paychecks on Saturdays.
We went to work a half hour
Before the boss got there,
Getting dirty and sweaty.
He would tell us to take it easy
And not to overdo it.
Organizing filthy wooden boxes
By the grower’s name
Was punishment of the damned
As the day turned to hell-fire,
A torturing, punitive heat.
Temperatures exceeded 107-degrees.
After the boss left, we withdrew
To our shady resting place
At the far end of the lot,
Behind a barrier of boxes
Away from sight and the road.
We built a large shade covering,
Reclining chairs, coffee table,
A bed for hung-over mornings,
Out of broken wooden boxes.
Music from a portable radio.
We waited for an afterlife
At the end of the workday;
4:00 P.M., at the hottest time.
We were sorry for our sins,
At minimum wage of a $1.25 an hour,
We were in need of cleansing.
The car windows rolled down,
North on Golden State Boulevard
At 60 miles-an-hour, a dusty green blur
Of oleanders and palm trees,
Hot air blew in on the newly dead.
Stephen Barile, a Fresno, California native, attended Fresno City College, Fresno Pacific University, and California State University, Fresno. He was a long-time member of the Fresno Poet’s Association. Stephen Barile lives and writes in Fresno. His poems have been published extensively.
I break branches and gather bramble
that binds the ties of the railroad tracks,
unpaid work while I am out of work, no demand
for window sashes to make of pine and fir, my breath
slick in the cold weather flying like birds from my chest.
I’ll go back to work, they project, but do not promise,
in the spring, after the winter the plant stands idle.
Ice argues with water in the slush pocket
near the rails, one winning in the sun,
one winning in the darkness.
Hush takes up the enormous share of time
this winter morn, wispy clouds light brushstrokes
appearing as if intentional to un-monotonize the sky.
Mud cakes boot bottoms, a heaviness
I like, a means to shuffle through wee ponds
and stay sturdy, as if a weighted tare
to gain passage, the lead a jockey adds to ride.
I grunt, and grunt work it is,
and I am happy in this self-caused haze of moisture
from my more frequent puffs, thinking of eggs
turned with toast in the pan, butter liquefying
into transparent bubbles that snap,
the clang of the pan in the sink after sliding the eggs
onto a plate, the ting of the tines of the fork.
Metal—I did not know until out of a job
with wood how much I loved metal,
the rails, the zipper, the pans, the utensils,
the forging process of molds and heat
rather than saw, plane, rasp, and knife.
I light the branches and leafless bramble
and nurse the stutter and lurch of the flame
until like a frozen lake at sunset the entire surface
burns the color of a molten metal pouring from a hod.
I imagine spring, my muscles taut,
my face blank, expressions frozen.
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, and The Muleskinner Journal.
Jump Down Spin Around
–after “Shake the Dust” by Anis Mojgani
This is for wee babies—their dribbles & giggles. This is for naptimes & nappies
—lullabies, burps & the sweet smell on the backs of tiny necks. This is for
mama’s milk & her womb tightening with each suckle back to the size of her fist.
This is for serious looks & furrowed brows & rubber duckies at bath time. This
is for Johnny-Jump-Ups & learning to squeal with each bounce.
Jump Down Spin Around
This is for grandparents. This is for Mummum’s lubby-dubby arms & her soft lap.
This is for the scent of lavender in her white hair. This is for Papa’s whiskers & his
strong but gentle hugs. This is for being read to at bedtime. This is for reading the
same story over & over. This is for grandparents swinging toddlers to the moon &
trips around the block only holding on to one finger for each of them.
Jump Down Spin Around
For joy & walking now. This is for sunglasses & socks with sticky dots on the
bottoms so toddlers don’t fall down when they step on the hardwood. This is for
dogs playing nursemaid & one-year-olds climbing into the dog bed with them.
This is for the carpet on the playroom floor covered with toys & more toys that
don’t quite fit into a one-year-old’s mouth.
Jump Down Spin Around
This is for music—ukuleles, penny whistles, xylophones & toy pianos.This is for
the Beetles on TV & bugs in the garden. For chickens & orchards, swings & slides.
This is for tricycles & tractors, Thomas the Tank Engine even though he isn’t real.
This is for rag dolls & stuffies & Elsa & Anna. This is for singing at the top of your
lungs & soft pillows to scream into.
Jump Down Spin Around
This is for the alphabet. Now you can write a grocery list. Bubblegum, Ovaltine,
hot chocolate mix, strawberries & ice cream, Nutella & potato chips. Love is for
family, kindergarten, Roald Dahl & preschool. This is for Into the Woods &
Matilda, The Mandalorian & baby Grogu, tree frogs & owls, dinosaurs & the
biggest, strangest & most rare stones, birds, animals ever. Where did the first
dinosaur come from? This is for squid eyes big as soccer balls. This is for soccer
Jump Down Spin Around
Burn your finger. Get smoke in your eyes till you cry. This is for air & airplanes,
warships, catastrophes & vocabularies. What’s the word? filthy, tentacles, tapestry,
escapology & virtual. Take a hike, swim a lap, do a forward, back, egg & pencil roll.
Win a trophy, then two, three & more. Stick them up on the mantle. Learn a
song, write a rhyme, bake a cake & shake a leg. Become a math wiz, A+ in algebra.
Name the planets in order from the sun. Quiz your grandmother just for fun.
Drive a tractor & a motorcycle. Drive your mother to distraction.
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. dalechamplin.com