Skip to content →

Category archive for: Poems

It Happened One Night

(1934 American black & white romantic comedy by Frank Capra)

which was really a week

of falling asleep

on a stranger’s lapel,

and the white satin

that went on forever

like a cigarette

that never sets fire

to the hay we sleep in.

It happened one night like

drunk reporters talking

into two phones at once,

like borrowed pajamas

and a donut dunked in coffee

early morning at the auto camp.

It happened one night but was never grim,

not the man tied to the tree

nor the man running in fear for his children

nor the recommended daily

sock to the mouth for her.

We barely felt it.

The autogyro was always ridiculous.

We run away

with the runaway bride

and we couldn’t be happier

from Poetry Northwest 10.1 Summer & Fall 2015More by Sierra Nelson from the library

Copyright © Sierra Nelson
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

Scrap Gold

Then all was vineyard, all was grape

Kept a bone in the oven so the heat learned savor

The implosions have been slow and restful ever since

Clothesline is a sentence

Or snowbank

We spoke, as birds unsettled in the trees outside

We spoke, much as birds that unsettle

Yet do not lift, yet seem to move the trees

They built the cathedral with a battered door

Canoe forever on a car

from Poetry Northwest 10.2 Winter & Spring 2016More by Zach Savich from the library

Copyright © Zach Savich
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

Grief Scale

i.Hummingbird at rest.

ii.A letter in the post, rain-damp, belated.

iii.You no longer read the newspaper.

iv.Child touching two fingers to the keys of an upright,

the felted breath of dissonance.

v.Thunder’s approaching bass, trebled against glass.

vi.You inhale a cold muddle of clouds. Frost

glazes your heart, your gut.



ix.You could speak forever about nothing at all.

x.Crow wings a wind shear—

the ice forest creaks and fractures

into ten thousand tiny knives.

xi.You pluck the bloody shards—

from your scalp, your hands, the hollows

beneath your breasts—for the rest of your life.

xii.You bless them all.

from Poetry Northwest 07.2 Fall & Winter 2012-2013More by Marie Gauthier from the library

Copyright © Marie Gauthier
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

Grocery Store Manager

Manager likes to find ways

to entertain himself.

He’ll work the register too.

Just like us. He won’t

step in the freezer,

but will greet patrons

at the door. Manager

asks me to start wearing pants

without holes in our

quarterly meeting. The meeting

is held on the break room couch

with many upholstery holes.

I can look purposeful

like a weathervane.

Then he says, I know you don’t

want to be here, and Manager admits

he wanted to be an architect,

and even went to school for it,

but says this to the floor,

quietly, and so, like the floor,

I do not speak. The floor nods.

Manager went to the produce guy’s

metal concert once—he didn’t

seem to care for it, but he went.

I can respect that. Sometimes

I wish I could just go home,

is not something Manager says

because he doesn’t have to.

Manager doesn’t have to ask

if I too feel like a coat rack

nailed to the floor.

from Poetry Northwest 10.2 Winter & Spring 2016More by Keith Leonard from the library

Copyright © Keith Leonard
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.


I’m the screen door always smacking open.

Inside my chest, there’s an archaic turntable.

The needle’s been yanked off-kilter

so I spin with the wonky rage of a typhoon.

I’m immune, throwing myself like sleet

into the baby’s ears, across her cheeks.

And then the truck sliding on black ice—less

tonic than bitters; a blunt swig saying I am

flesh. And not new. I’m trying. I try to be

the lighthouse, not the restive searchlight

troubling night’s troughs. Bioluminescent,

I fish-flip through tangled fronds of thought

re-crossing my heart. I’m an aching hinge

always put to use. That tiny whine keeps me

from dreams. It’s my shift. My mind, an

addled craft idling above shoulders, is set

to whisk whomever’s tromping crop-circles

back home to a far-off star; I joke I could

stay, having found my kind. Crumpled,

I wake needing stronger spectacles

for things to take shape. Relentless fog

needling through mesh. Or smoke. I am

that storm whose improbable second front

mounts for another sweep through god-


What have you heard?

What will happen next?

I slam, then slam again in a gust when asked

from Poetry Northwest 10.2 Winter & Spring 2016More by Katrina Roberts from the library

Copyright © Katrina Roberts
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.


I don’t know why I talk and talk and talk

Sometimes people mind but mostly not


I constellate my tiny horses to see how their bodies work


And when that’s done I gather all my shells

And think of when I broke my favorite crown


I lay my shells and rocks and money in the light


(The trees can suck you up into the blue)

(Behind it there’s a unicorn of stars)


The earth is busy making towns and towns and towns and

If the stars touch earth a fire starts

My throat is hot and I take off my dress


And when that’s done I touch my center one long time


This shell is made of dust, this one of bone

The arrow I am tangles with the sun

from Poetry Northwest 11.2 Winter & Spring 2017More by Jessica Johnson from the library

Copyright © Jessica Johnson
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

Landscape Rising from Crow Eyes (Ornithomancy)

divination by birds

So you’re in the Van Gogh museum sneaking a pic

of Wheat Fields with Crows with a cell phone because

you’ve come up with a different crow count 3x now,

& because you can’t quite see where crows end

& night begins, because if you look hard enough

you’ll look into the rest of Vincent’s life

since the painting was his last, & you’ll need

something, later, to bring you back to this moment

where forty-five, or forty-eight, or fifty vanishing

points watch you begin to disappear back into

your life, where you’re questioning everything

you know about crows, & light, & last words,

but here’s a hand gripping your collar, & another

knuckled into your back, someone with coffee

& herring-breath muttering kloatsek, a Frisian insult,

meaning asshole, or douchebag, which means the guard

might be from Friesland, a Netherlands province

with a language no one officially recognizes as a language,

but such a little area that he might be a distant

relative, & because comedy will always trump tragedy

in your life, you stumble as you turn to flip the bird

at this longlost cousin, & fall back to the asphalt,

eyeball to shattered eyeball with a dead crow.

And look up at what it looked at last: just another

street, a four story redbrick skyline across the way,

a piano dangling in front of one of the windows.

A contrail-crossed sky. Salt air blowing in

from the ocean that separates you from everyone

you know. If art is just the thing that makes you

more vulnerable, couldn’t this crow, this bit

of char, this black tongue gone cold cursing,

be included? And what else has knocked you

on your ass lately? The man in Argentina who fitted

his father’s left hand to his own, a hand recovered

from a pile of smoldering bones. The splotch on the iris

of a 3-year-old in a picture, yellow sun, that someone

on social media identified as the beginning of Coats’ disease,

yellow shine of an unseen scar on the back of her retina,

& so saved her vision. Or the look in your wife’s eyes,

the glistening at the crow’s feet beside them,

when you finished the crib, twelve white slats on each side

of the golden-ratioed rectangle, one for every pair

of ribs, ribs right now the size of dragonfly wings,

& just as translucent. At the end of two lives,

at the beginning of another, you take your first steps

back into the world, with all the brushwork left

upon you, your body upside down in the canal

next to you, body among the evening stars, a point

of light for every feather burning in your memory.

from Poetry Northwest 11.2 Winter & Spring 2017More by Mark Wagenaar from the library

Copyright © Mark Wagenaar
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.


Because I’ve seen the way a body

looks preserved, I turned away

from you. That’s the most

that I could do. Distance, dear,

makes the heart grow weary.

The scene where I’m your citizen,

but am touching myself inside

a stranger’s apartment as, in Yemen,

an American drone kills 14 at

a wedding, mistakenly. Mistakenly,

I chose the hydrangea, whose large pink

blush has been said to match the size

of a sender’s heart. When not pruned

properly, the flowers sag, begin

to break. Once, you fed me heart

on a skewer. After, I read the animal

would be inside me forever,

idea that made me sick for days.

Now, my autoerotic display,

while, in Yemen, vehicles still

are smoking. Distance makes easy

unmanning the hands. I hasten

to compare the scene where

I’m such a terror in that dress,

where the flowers are all a mess,

and I’m gussied up. I’m turned on

by men I’ve never met. What a wedding

photographer, as anyone poses

candid for the drone. But, no, I’m

only posing for myself, in the mirror.

Because I’ve seen the cadaver lab.

I’ve held the brain and know

you could make a curtain of the small

intestine, that the cerebellum

resembles the pressed fossil,

a coniferous needle cluster. That

the heart is not so after all

impressive. Though it is heavy.

I don’t know what it is to be a target

for someone other than myself.

Just that twinning the body

with another doesn’t put on pause

the old atrocities, love, all our

ceremonies ruined. Sown with salt.

from Poetry Northwest 10.1 Summer & Fall 2015More by Corey Van Landingham from the library

Copyright © Corey Van Landingham
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

We’ll Always Have Carthage

The head must bow to the heart,

which is why I always look down;

if the earth is round and round

I’ll be wrong until the ends of it.

Beautiful, you said, and meant

the sea. Reminding me—

there are walls to be built,

rocks carried.

Now I can’t meet you

or your eyes—just the boats

below in the harbor,


The wind shakes the earth

from its four corners;

the flames are picking up,

or is that me shaking?

Look, I’m right—the sun is underwater.

Now get out of here with that lion’s skin

on your back.

from Poetry Northwest 05.1 Spring & Summer 2010More by Sierra Nelson from the library

Copyright © Sierra Nelson
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

The Afterbirth of a Fawn

Inerte, tout brûle dans l’heure fauve . . .

– Mallarmé, L’après-midi d’un faune

All afternoon, in slate grizzle,

beneath the yews, black shag

grove where others grazed,

indifferent, some on hind legs, eating

like the Girl with No Hands

in an old tale, the doe strode,

steamed, fell, rose again,

& by sundown still just those two,

milk-hoofed ghostly limbs

of fawn hung out of her, slipping back,

emerging, again, out, in,

the ropey noose

she leaned her elegant head

back to snap at, repeatedly,

amnion alien pulley.

While I slept, she did not.

Next evening, the tawny hour,

herd conspicuously vanished,

the space cuffed, muddy, thrashed,

so whiskery with light snow

I almost missed it, stepping

among fecal pearls, stain faint

as girlhood on a thrown-out skirt.

She’d eaten it well,

her own blood, placenta, basal plate,

but not this tissue frozen

to cellophane, weird, cellular,

unlikely remnant doily,

hieroglyph spelling unattached,

natal patch that opens us to death.

from Poetry Northwest 11.2 Winter & Spring 2017More by Lisa Russ Spaar from the library

Copyright © Lisa Russ Spaar
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.