As we curve and climb beside the low white guardrails,
two empty steel barrels boom and rattle
in the back of our Toyota. On the top they say
Bowen, Portland, #46, #48. That’s from when
they jostled in the hold of a freighter to Japan
as my aunt Lorraine and her missionary partner,
Virginia Bowen, sailed their slow and faithful journeys,
like Paul across the Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas.
Lorraine and Ginny are gone now, stowed
under a green slope on the shore of the Willamette Valley.
My son and I bring these barrels to my brother,
way up in the Cascades, where he will store
his mountain gear outside his trailer in the woods,
one mission succeeding another. Roll out the barrels!
he will sing to us when we arrive. Bring them in
from the fields of sin! And we will. Oh, yes, we will.
Paul Willis has published seven collections of poetry, the most recent of which is Somewhere to Follow (Slant Books, 2021). Individual poems have appeared in Poetry, Ascent, Writer’s Almanac, and Best American Poetry. He is a professor of English at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California.