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Category archive for: Poems

from Occasional Chainsaws in the Valley of Eternal Sorry

In the abandoned mall, I climb in the empty fountain smudged with sea foam green rust, the fleur de sel pennies leave. The feeling is not new. One June, I was a baby beauty queen up the hall. Baby is wrong. I was five, describing my cat in terms of eating and sleeping habits. Never sought a kitten to imprint early—no one owns a cat anyhow—but like a cat I reached for every sun blot that fell in the windows, brushed my head on furniture and those I loved, sought connection. On stage, I wore stiff Aqua Net locks, a show pony smile. Outside after, my hair fell in the heat.There’s a shoebox in my closet—greeting cards, dance programs to swear by. I was someone. I was girl, smelling like fruit, flowers, and alcohol spritzed on neck and wrists. Sometimes I still see the bath shop awning, red-and- white gingham. Sometimes I almost watch the videotape a boy gave me for my birthday, a cartoon wolf on the box. I still hear school bus rumors of how his mother found him—the necktie, the bunk bed—the jostle of the bus stopping and starting.This is an anti-nostalgia served in vintage Pyrex—snowflake blue, gooseberry, butterprint. Beware: scratches that leach lead into food, a dinner bell that summons memory. Beware: an oil-slick iridescence pooled on the garage floor.The cat lapping up the sweet beneath the Thunderbird.

from Poetry Northwest 13.1 Summer & Fall 2018More by Gina Keicher from the library

Copyright © Gina Keicher
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

Gates Open

A monk’s heart is a mobile home

Clouds are mostly gossip, for monks

In meditation, monks train to be naked

Monks on one leg balance into red breeze

They watch animals vanish into colors

Then gather morning’s dew into bell jars

If there is a world shared, let it be ours, they chant

Monks scribble their names onto each tombstone

A monk’s bonfire is mostly I.D. papers

A monk’s laughter is wind collapsing

through our fingers

from Poetry Northwest WEBMore by Kevin Phan from the library

Copyright © Kevin Phan
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

Smoke Signals

Visiting ear on top, peril

watered down, of whitened form,

milieu vinegared,

shared while the lipsnatch hovers,

the promised spit of heaven.

Sugared be the beet, the red ant,

the spiked border,

and intimate the oscillating

thumped hip, feigned,

the smoke learning.

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.

Other Names

They call the mountain Carlos because

it is brown, although its purple slopes

at dusk suggest other names.

-Ray Gonzalez

Papi, grapefruit, anchor—every

week Carlos come with gifts

in his dirty white sedan.

He text from unknown

numbers. Some weeks tall

other weeks not. Carlos

bury mice in the woods

goes careful with their

brittle tails. Carlos dig

holes the size of his fist—

Daddy to the land also.

Brown mud, the rocks the river soften

and the river also. Rock

also. Boot crunch. River

of ice the bridge cross

and the bridge also.

Kind of togetherness

we make w/ desire

to lose our voice

to the river. Hum


to the edge where listening

is no longer possible—

go beyond it.

from Poetry Northwest 13.1 Summer & Fall 2018More by Oliver Baez Bendorf from the library

Copyright © Oliver Baez Bendorf
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

Children of Men

Like a rowboat with only one paddle, it’s a metaphor. It’s also unpleasant and difficult to drive. Backwards, of course. In circles that lead to forests where men, among other creatures, often bear themselves away to cry. Important, this show of water. Important because the boat is always just left of the hill’s crest; because tomorrow is something we talk about while spilling beans from a split can. In any migration, there’s always someone who’d rather stay. There’s refuge and refuse and speeches hanging on like radio crackle; hollow as a playground barrel. They’ll never stop fighting, you know, though their armistice is sea and scene swaddled; some impossible whale. Something you should know: a bullet hole. No, not just that. Maybe wounds like fog: there, out of reach. Have I told you about tomorrow? It’s a collapsed lung, so pneumothorax. Yes, the most breathtaking things always have the thickest armor.

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.

The Rose Bush

A man plucked an orange rose from a bush, smelled it, and then burst into flames. The flames eventually died out. Ash. Later, the man’s daughter came looking for him. All she found were scattered ashes. The girl then walked up to the bush, picked a blue rose, and smelled it. She quickly turned into water and splashed to the floor. She washed away the ash.

from Poetry Northwest WEBMore by Jose Hernandez Diaz from the library

Copyright © Jose Hernandez Diaz
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

Why I Stay

In spite of the summers with heat so thick you could cut it with a knife.

I stay even though sometimes it feels like everything is out to get you.

Even though I let the night swallow me whole. Even though I got grass stuck in my spokes.

Because I’ve never had a good enough answer for where I’ve been, where I’m going.

Because belonging is subjective, and I will find my way out of the mud.

I stay for the bayou. I stay for the river.

I stay because Mardi Gras.

Because glitter in your bed, in your beard, for weeks.

Because bicycling through the neighborhood following a trail of red feathers.

Because strutting in the streets with a six-pack and a flask and all the time in the world.

I stay because I finally had the courage to escape the trimly cut lawns of my childhood.

I stay for the smell of jasmine on Gayoso Street at midnight.

I stay in the face of our crumbling coast.

In the face of disposability.

I stay despite the potholes and the boil water advisories and the streets that fill like a fishbowl after a light rain.

Despite the web of cat’s claw ever-creeping up the side of the house.

I stay because the joy on my niece’s face as she fills her cupped palm with pebbles in my backyard.

Because the joy on my husband’s face when the line on his fishing pole goes taut.

I stay because joy. Because we already hung the tire swing. Because when you build a home, you stay.

from Poetry Northwest WEBMore by Tiana Nobile from the library

Copyright © Tiana Nobile
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

New World

We’ve got these jobs now and indoor plants to place

in the corners and a park like every other

just steps outside the home, except ours

with only a handful of homeless. Yesterday marks

six months since a death in the valley. Goddammit,

I’m counting time again. How long since my last monsoon,

since I was walking a path

near an abbey and it was desert in all my days

like St. John’s long dark night,

and it was good. Martyrs are for the birds

and I am a bird for sure. First

there was sadness and then there was violence and always

there’s distance. I give in. Let’s count

the days up and down, position ourselves in relation

to loss. He’s made an expanse, he’s separated

the waters, he’s rested, and he’ll rest all the days.

I’ve started bus riding again, and I feel like a teenager

with a crush on the world. Here they all are

and there they all go, and who am I to them and they

to me, and will they be there tomorrow if I take the same route,

and what does it mean ever to see someone

do a human thing on the street and in the alley

and at the corner, and what do I mean

here, losing them again and again.

The loss isn’t mutual. There is something bigger happening

than a window to the world,

and that was the whole point, I suppose.

A little loss and ache

to get from point a to point b. A buckle in my breathing

because everyone else is happening.

from Poetry Northwest WEBMore by Sarah León from the library

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

Family Portrait as Lullaby

Your father is the slow dance and I am the ballad.

Or he’s the nightclub and I am six tequila shots on the bar.

I am the salt and lemon, too.

I am the snake and the apple. I am the tongue that says

to your father—Take. Eat. Do this in remembrance of me.

Your father, the monologue in the music box

and I, the plastic ballerina in gold shoes.

Your father is the swaddle, the rock, the cradle.

His potbellied heart loses its socks and is learning to laugh.

You are Mars. Your father and I are its two moons orbiting.

You, stardust on the telescope’s lens

and the ice in the comet’s tail.

Your heart is a poppy—bright, forgetful.

You are the first mayapple of spring, unripe and rising.

And this is the hallelujah I asked the first star

to sing at the quickening.

This is the dirty Eden, stalked by envious angels.

This is the land of Isaac, and of knives.

We are the wish imperfectly granted and this is the well.

from Poetry Northwest 09.2 Winter & Spring 2015More by Traci Brimhall from the library

Copyright © Traci Brimhall
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.