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Category archive for: Poems

Feast Day Fair

The blue church smoked.

Stiff and blest, we shook

our cloaks out and cut

camp. It was dawn,

the sheep going left

then right in panic,

ewes trembling under

trestle tables. The feast

was spoiled—a wreck

of meat and copper.

The image of the saint

half-sunk in tallow, tilted,

and bodies, three of them,

still wearing their crusted

habits. The stilt-walker

swung in his tree.

from Poetry Northwest WEBMore by Montreux Rotholtz from the library

Copyright © Montreux Rotholtz
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

Tarnished Angel

Though they’re slightly eroded, one still might surmise

the commanding force in those tensile coppery legs,

their responsive bent, their brutal extent. I draw up

into myself at their coming; I stumble as one cast out.

Look down on me. I, fallen, would meet him, fallen,

in the blunt blue light of morning. My angry god

would contest his angry god, to clutch at sheer cloth

and recompense of lean, fusible flesh. He was once lost wax.

I long to know his vulgar tongue. To feel the cool verdigris

of his shanks, the clasping down upon my own extremities.

I want to be with the one who will not have me. Will not,

despite our mortal errors, which seem terribly to twin.

from Poetry Northwest WEBMore by D.A. Powell from the library

Copyright © D.A. Powell
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

Color Scheme

after the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1968 photo taken by Nick Ut of a Viet Cong guerilla being executed by South Vietnam’s national police chief

This is not

how death is made

permanent. Not

the camera’s flash,

the irony of sunlight

on gunmetal,

but the hand gripping the pistol

(a yellow hand)

and the face squinting

behind the barrel

(a yellow face).

Like all captured life

this one fails

to reveal the picture.

Like where the bullet

entered his skull,

the phantom of a rose

leapt into light, or how,

after smoke cleared,

from behind the fool

with blood on his cheek

and the dead dog by his feet,

a white man

was lighting a cigarette.

from Poetry Northwest WEBMore by Ocean Vuong from the library

Copyright © Ocean Vuong
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

Sunshine

You want to make it about heat, but really, it’s the pressure that gets to me. That a spaceship has no shoulders. That it’s all just some melted wax sex-toy in open space. They named the thing Icarus, because someone obviously likes fucking with fate; flicking their lighter at the filling station. And it makes sense. Mythology got us into this; a parent urging you not to do thing X at this particular time Y because: fire, further, father, sun. And so, you do X. Of course. And then you understand something slow; heat-death; cold confusion. How a forest could fly right by. Oxygen as open container spilling as you sway. We pay for the world in flesh. Firstlings in the flames. A funeral should always begin or end with a feast, if for no other reason than the alliteration. You need to understand: all immolation is, by definition, sacrifice. We can’t escape these etymologies. More confusing is the verb molere: to grind. But maybe the world is just trying to tell us about the burnt lubrication in the gears; desiccation in the downy yellow violets. They were my favorite, you know, before the snow. Birds, too. I loved them. I loved that something, anything, so completely owned the sky before men decided to fly.

from Poetry Northwest WEBMore by Matthew Minicucci from the library

Copyright © Matthew Minicucci
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

Mississippi Panorama

Grunts of the crew

cordelling upriver

go soft through a sandbar.

Sparse lights clot thicker

in the southway flow where a

floating

greenhouse of exotic plants

slips between sleeper trees

and billows the sleek

hum of chartreuse rot.

Crescent’s survey crew pauses

at a bonfire rendezvous

nestled inside of a horseshoe bend

south of

36°35’16: N 89°32’9″ W.

They drink

a newspaper man’s proffered anisette

and listen to his lament

for copy. His panorama painter

nods at an assistant

to unload

slender glass flasks

of linseed oil.

These strangers start wary

spooked by rumors of Yellow Jack

moving down the riverbank,

but the drinks soothe their reserve.

Loquacious and loose,

one man allows

that you can buy inoculations

off the Indian Agents

on the other side of the river

that buffer the disease,

though he doesn’t trust such things

and wouldn’t credit it truly.

The newspaper man confesses

to all who will listen

that he’s bent on fabricating

a story of gruesome atrocity

in the west—a thicket of corpses

to sell to the Eastern papers.

The next morning,

they move to the marrow-searing

flask of rye

and the painter

stretches his canvas on a knoll.

Soul drivers unlash

their flatboats from the floating

cities and shrug their vigilance,

as they round the Kentucky Bend

into the heel of Missouri.

They step to land,

anxious to trade for gulps

of honey brandy

to chase off the milk-sick fly.

They bring a girl.

By the flat-blue hour,

the painter is dead drunk

raving at them

to drag her out

of his line of sight.

He flicks paint

across cinnamon roots

as he lurches,

digs a filthy fingernail

in frustration

across the bottom of the wet canvas.

As he pulls her away,

Crescent misjudges her lightness

his grip slithers around her ankle:

her heel is calloused,

but each toe

still holds a child’s plump

curves and neat nails,

smooth and tidy

as walleye scales.

Her clothes are stained, she smells

like metal;

rusty plumes of bog tannin

leech into the river

in patches

all around them.

A preacher tree

bobs up and down

into the water

baptized in loose silt

of Mississippi relish.

from Poetry Northwest WEBMore by Laura Da’ from the library

Copyright © Laura Da’
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

Oxy 40

Think of the mason jar

we use to kill yellow jackets,

the way it’s sealed upside down

over the nest’s grassy mouth,

how it thrums and pings with desperation,

hundreds throwing themselves

against the light, little empire

with the luster of golden tiles

stripped from an ancient mosaic

of the sun, the incandescence

of a ghost light burning lonely

in the Theater of All

That Could Have Been,

which has been shuttered closed

to wait out the long winter

descending on your will.

from Poetry Northwest WEBMore by William Brewer from the library

Copyright © William Brewer
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

Virginia

We were brown and immigrant. We drove a Volkswagen and sang songs in the hymnals of white people. We loved these songs. And god was pinned to the underside of my skirt like a blood orchid.

I loved a boy named Philip. My mother sent me to his house with 100 eggrolls that she fried herself. We kissed until my tongue was tired. I didn’t know that— that the tongue could get tired, like any muscle.

I wore my own clothes on Halloween. I smudged my eyes with eyeliner and dotted my neck with two black dots.

What are you?

A victim.

I flapped my arms like a pinwheel. Solar winds flooded me. I didn’t dare to think I could not belong. I was a wrapped baby of a kind of oriole. Wiping the sun’s juice off my face, I balanced on a pencil drawing of health insurance.

I wanted to be a poem. Ox-like, my family rose against me. Incensed, I could think of nothing else. Love abounding Loveabounding. If my family met a poem, they would really punch her in the face.

Huddled around the one bulb of health insurance, I said I wanted to be a poem. The poem played piano. Her arm muscles moved and she opened her voice and I knew she loved her husband, her children, her dog, her country. In this song, I saw the chips of mica in the asphalt. I held the cans of super saver. I touched bankruptcy and rusted bike chains. The tiny dot of my sister on the palomino of school leaving and then coming back again and then leaving, ad infinitum.

I had a brass portrait of the Pietà. Her lambent and impassive face looking down on the broken body, the broken language. The deep kelp of not belonging. Together we watched the tide go in and out of the fresh sown batteries of our country.

A draft of this poem would be good to read / to send to you.

from Poetry Northwest WEBMore by Sarah Gambito from the library

Copyright © Sarah Gambito
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

山上的小屋 (“A Mountain Hut”)

是风, 在拍打着杉树皮的屋顶
我总是埋着头。屋子外面,许多草叶
越过了栅栏
在山中奔跑。风声里,我总是
忘记了时间
或者季节。那握住
又松开的掌心,纵横交错的
命运——我记得,我有过五月
和蓝色星空下作出的诺言
我曾经归来⋯⋯一次又一次
在后院
埋下了种子、错失和爱

   ♦  ♦  ♦

Wind whacks the fir-bark roof

and I bow my head low. Outside my house, grass and leaves

arch over fences

and sprint up the mountains. In the wind, time

or season

slips my mind. Palm clenches

and loosens, an intertwined

destiny—I remember how I pulled through May

and made a promise under the stellar sky

I have returned . . . Again and again

in the backyard

I plant seeds, mistakes, love

from Poetry NorthwestMore by Fiona Sze-Lorrain from the libraryMore by Ye Lijun from the library

Copyright © Ye Lijun. English translation and bios copyright © Fiona Sze-Lorrain, 2017.
Used with the permission of the author on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

A Prayer to Cathy McMorris Rodgers for the Right Reasons to Wed

I got married this June, years after my family

never asked what I was waiting for.

Work and beware any love that’s jealous

of work, they meant but didn’t say, nor:

the HOV lane to misery

is marrying a charming man too early.

And they were right! Naturally,

they did not believe in divorce.

Who does? my husband says.

He’s embarrassed of his split

though not of me, and this

is a clause of our understanding.

He never thought he’d have a second wife.

I never thought marriage could feel

like a breakfast fruit, like something

I’ll get my nail under each day to peel clean.

Cathy, since your people won the House

the affordable option for health insurance

was to marry this man with benefits.

At the obstetrician’s they’ll call me geriatric,

but I’ll be covered. My husband’s body may break down,

but we’ll be covered. If, at the end of nursing him

through the final extremity we cannot today afford to imagine,

I commence my glamorous third act,

that, too, will be covered.

Is that how you imagined the women of your district?

Un-covered by their own work?

Swooning for the romance of deductibles?

For my third act I’ll need his grandmother’s furs,

I tell his mother, but silently,

like a good daughter-in-law,

putting in the time love can’t guarantee.

We’re in the magic hour, Cathy,

and we know it. I’m getting used to diamonds,

to scavenging for little pots and trays in which

they may wait while I wash my hands.

Sometimes when I’m in a hurry,

I forget to put my ring back on

and go out like that, barehanded,

like I haven’t been promised anything.

from Poetry Northwest WEBMore by Kate Lebo from the library

Copyright © Kate Lebo
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

A Poem is a Letter Opener

and it is the letter that is answered

or not answered, held first by the uncle

who sorted it on his graveyard shift

in the postal service warehouse,

after which it became the postman

going from box to box, each box

a particular face like a dog’s, the dog

that is also a poem, its eyes dark

like the water in a well, its fur smelling

like grass that is also a poem, green

and exclamatory in spring, later

turning the color of rubber-bands,

which are also poems, holding

together the pencils, the tip-money,

the small stone in the sling-shot right

before it takes flight, the stone that

looks like a tiny skull, granite like death,

a piece of the night left in the middle

of the day, which is also a poem,

starting with its whisper campaign

of morning light, the light touching

the clean sidewalk, the light touching

the sign in the window that says

“No Crying Allowed In This Shop,”

the sign itself a poem, like the dusk

that comes like a cowl around us,

to the sick uncle, to the thieving uncle,

to the uncle who sleeps in the day,

his sleep careful as a tea ceremony

or a poem, a poem that is old and full

of days, a poem like an old china

plate that is the color of time, the dusk

having its supper of fog and people

walking through the fog, the fallen

leaves in the parks like strewn credit

cards, which are also poems, like

the typewriter writing the letter

one little tooth at a time, one love at

a time, in our city of paper and crows.

from Poetry Northwest WEBMore by Rick Barot from the library

Copyright © Rick Barot
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.