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Category archive for: Poems

Song

I want to be the governor of Alaska. Because the season

is turning, because the trees are becoming an announcement,

their leaves with the future already in them, the self-arson

of the red leaves, the yellow leaves like superlative

lemons, I want to be the governor of Alaska. Because

I’m tired of the news, the newspapers, the public radio

experts, and my own sad inability to sit quietly in my room,

which Pascal declares is the problem with people, I want

to be the governor of Alaska. Because from the air base

and army base outside my town, airplanes as gray as whales

and as big as dreams keep flying over our houses,

shrieking like oversized skateboards on city sidewalks.

Because of arsenic in the rain, because of arsenic sleeping

inside the ground, and the weather like a cold war always

coming down from Canada and Russia, I want to be

the governor of Alaska. Because I’m always hearing speech

from the kettles and the door-knobs, those pure products

of America, their soft words always scurrying, things

bothered by eyes and light. Because I have been reading

the letters of Van Gogh, the part where he says, “Instead of

painting the ordinary wall of the mean room, I paint

infinity.” Because when he died the world went dark by half,

and when you went away this morning the other half went

dark, I want to be the governor of Alaska. Because of all

the Filipinos canning tuna in Alaska, because of the

mail-order brides ordered by the lonely men of Alaska,

I want to be the governor of Alaska. Because of the pipeline

on the state’s chest like a bypass scar, because of the streams

and flowers of the tundra, alive so briefly they are

like the gift of an election blossoming every four years,

I want to be the governor of Alaska. Because of the price

of gas, because of all the rosaries I prayed in my childhood,

I want to be the governor of Alaska. Because even then,

in childhood, I knew it was doubt that made people small,

when I was dared to eat a caterpillar, I did. It wasn’t shooting

moose, but still it made me want to be the governor of Alaska.

from Poetry Northwest 05.1 Spring & Summer 2010More by Rick Barot from the library

Copyright © Rick Barot
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

Nightfall

The crumpled steel

guarded movement

its offering, dead

bells on felt

squares

walk your

body around its

outline, in some

distress and rust

you got it right

*

see through-

enter off

the sides

no edge left

unturned, blurred

in point of fact

a soft glow beckons

before we are barred

from the lights

the way we like

*

any number of ways

to squeeze a brushed

defenseless box

meaning mind pouring

holes down through

the top reinforcing

its phantom

dust coated tongues

of grey green plants

open prairie

*

I would like it better

strolling each side alone

iron grips

the long and dark

long and bright

divided

from Poetry Northwest 13.1 Summer & Fall 2018More by Cedar Sigo from the library

Copyright © Cedar Sigo
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

The Catch

He drags a stringer of sunfish at dusk,

one fat bass at the end of nylon cord

looped through dirty gills, and slips by his mother

(watching TV) to fill the tub and dump

stiff fish afloat with shampoo bottles, soap,

and a bright yellow duck. What is hope?

A sharp tug that proves he chose the right jig?

A shore where only children shout? How big

a channel cat or bass might be? His damp clothes

dry on the towel rod. A hush replaces

dusk. He sleeps in a chair. His mother

cleans the tub. A family is hard scale

on which to weigh the keepers, a cutting board

covered with guts, a slit from gills to tail.

from Poetry Northwest 06.1 Spring & Summer 2011More by Tod Marshall from the library

Copyright © Tod Marshall
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

After Making Love We Hear Birdsong

It’s been a pretty athletic performance,

if I do say so myself, and as we finish

I’m winded, just holding Jennifer close

and about to start kissing the salt off her neck

when the birds pipe up at the window.

All night we left it open to the breeze—

more than warm already now at six am

this August Tuesday—and a motley flock

has gathered on the sill just as pretty

as you please. There’s a blue jay thrusting

his hips and warbling what sounds like

“Lay Lady Lay,” and there’s a mockingbird

with a long, clear, hot-damn whistle,

a cardinal couple too, and three goldfinches

bobbing and puffing out their chests

to whoop and coo. A pair of hummingbirds

leer in over the other guys’ shoulders,

not singing themselves of course, but flitting

back and forth with their long tongues out,

licking the air in what is clearly vicarious pleasure.

It’s flattering—I’m not going to lie—

this Disney treatment, but just as I turn

to smile “can-you-believe-this” at Jennifer,

I see our tender children at the bedside

with their big eyes glistening in a soft “oh-my,”

and when the five-year-old, Josh, sees me

see him, he closes his mouth and claps two times,

and he says, “Daddy, that was beautiful. Momma,

you are so so beautiful, and Daddy,

when you threw Momma in the air

and spun her sideways I was scared,

but it wasn’t scary really, scary beautiful

and I want to be like you when I grow up.”

And little Ellen, Ellen just says, “Momma,

you’re a princess, you’re a princess,”

and then she does her darling arabesque—

you know, holding one leg up behind her

and tilting her head, but we’re well aware

that from El that means pure respect.

Baby Phillip’s too little to talk or even crawl,

but he’s rolled in here somehow

and he’s on his back just giggling and cheesing

the way he does when he’s freshly nursed

and I tickle his soft, round belly and sing.

You know, their support makes me think

maybe we’re doing something right as parents,

but still, it’s our children, so I reach back

to pull the sheet up over our nakedness,

and then there are our neighbors,

Bill and Sharon in the doorway

with these huge grins on their faces,

and Bill’s giving me the big thumbs up,

and Sharon, flushed, says, “Wow,

you guys, wow! Now that is it! That is sex!”

and there’s our mailman, Mike, behind them

on tiptoe and others too behind him,

some of them hooting, and one woman

calls out she was worried we’d snap

the headboard and then everyone’s laughing

and cheering and acting out their favorite parts

in slow motion right there in our upstairs hallway.

And Jennifer and I are laughing too now,

humbled, sure, by the generous applause,

but also proud and happy, finally, to be recognized

for this skill we always knew was special,

and then in a blitz the birds are swirling

through the room, landing on the dresser

and night table and the bookshelves:

snowy owls, and a cockatiel, and two swans

by the dirty clothes basket, knotting their necks

in a bow and fluting, and last, this peacock

that must weigh fifty pounds comes sailing in,

screeching a half-baked rapture that chills us all

as he fans his tail and quivers mightily.

And in the midst of this display Jennifer rises,

smiling that coy queen-of-the-moon smile of hers,

and she takes my hand and pulls me up

and we bow, and I don’t know if it’s sweat

and the shine of exertion or what, but our hair

and our loins and our eyes and our teeth

and everything, everything’s glowing.

from Poetry Northwest 12.1 Summer & Fall 2017More by George David Clark from the library

Copyright © George David Clark
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

On the Beginning of Winter in Some Lost Industrial City of the North River Country

Coatsleeves. Weeping brick. So the sky kicks down

its cold doors. The woman next door saying

something. Nothing, baby. Nothing,

he says back. I don’t know one thing

about that. The river ice, the sky ice, a boy’s face

ice-wracked: red as flowers, his blood big.

His mother? Where is she? Next door:

Baby, please? You want a cigarette? Baby? Now

like wet factory smoke the dark falling. How smoke

is evidence. How nothing’s

burning. So streetlight. So black hat. Your breath

riding the wind’s bad back down the pocked alley,

up the gin store’s grim bricks, and up, up

the cloud-laddered sky, the stone bluffs east of town—

then to break, fade like common smoke. Up there: big

houses and burr oaks in their vestal robes of snow. Down

here: ropes of icy rain. Sumac’s frozen, broken fingers. Down

here: a man opening a door into some kind of life,

saying, Baby. Baby, I think I’ll step out.

Get me some cigarettes. You want something? Baby?

from Poetry Northwest 05.2 Fall & Winter 2010-2011More by Joe Wilkins from the library

Copyright © Joe Wilkins
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

His Highness’ Dog at Kew

That’s who I am, pampered, well fed,

trampling slack-leashed into the beds,

blooming or not, depositing my turds

and sprinkling the tulip stalks

whose buds are like the bud I lick.

And though I look like a dust mop,

a four-legged moustache, trim my bangs,

and as fierce as an Assyrian sight hound,

I’ll find my way back to Peritas or La Vega Real,

snout wet with the gore of human bowel.

But for now a squeaky, annoying yap

warns as well as a mastiff’s bark.

Truth is, I’m weightless in a lap

and, on a cold day, I like a cardigan,

at night, a stiff brush, all of which

sharpens the loneliness I feel.

So that’s who I am

and now if you don’t mind, tell me,

whose dog are you.

from Poetry Northwest 08.2 Fall & Winter 2013-2014More by Michael Collier from the library

Copyright © Michael Collier
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

Letter Sewn into the Hem of a Dress Made of Smoke

Blood sloshing

in my skull’s chipped saucer,

the stars trolling overhead,

and this dirt road

that twists back

to its own prehistory.

When I say you have the beauty

of a dirt road

I mean you have thin shoulders

that twist in me

like the fault lines

in a minor planet’s moon

I mean you smell of dust,

burnt soap stone, beetle shells,

garden hoses limp in the sun

I mean that I can feel you

tilt your head back

and tell some fleck of dust

hanging between us

that you make noises

only the dingo can hear.

I’ve lived all these years

with my mouth

pressed to the altar

of low green rivers

and slabs of shale

and I’m telling you now

that I can feel the night

scrawling the shape

of your voice onto the cold

wet earth of me

and when I say a doe

is about to jump

the low spot in the fence

in December in the rain

in this moment

and no other I mean

your animal stillness

resting next to mine.

from Poetry Northwest 11.2 Winter & Spring 2017More by Michael McGriff from the library

Copyright © Michael McGriff
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

Karaoke Night at the Sunset Bowl

if you sing

“Sexual Healing”

late at the bowling alley

before they tear it

down for condo,

say the night it comes

down to my crowd

of content providers

and the professional

women’s basketball team

all of us singing past

midnight while the lanes

sweep and are darkened

pledging to each other

not to go breaking hearts

to survive, stay alive

and I in neon shuffleboard

become someone else

then someone else again

without breath

when will we

be blameless again

I sing “Wasted Days

and Wasted Nights,”

I like the torn and

restored soul that groans

I’d sing with you any song

any falling-out-of-speech

young singers are so good

at sorrow you’d think they

knew something about it.

from Poetry Northwest WEBMore by Ed Skoog from the library

Copyright © Ed Skoog
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.