Two Poems by Joe Wilkins

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Sangria & Ceviche: Santiago’s Bodega, Key West, Florida

One hypothesis suggests that the common Spanish word for the dish, cebiche,
has its origin in the Latin word cibus, which translates to English as “food for men and animals.”

— Wikipedia


Of an evening we come wineful & glad,
each streetlight a shawl for your bare shoulders,
that gravel alley possible as my hunger.
In a house whisper-dark & clattery,
& among our hungry, sun-dazed kind, we sit
& against the heat sip wine over ice. Between us
some god sees fit to set a blue earthen bowl
brimming with the sunrise flesh of yellowfin,
with flowers drooped unto fruit, mango
& alligator pear, with onion’s red root
& cilantro’s bright leaf, with a fiery slick
of lime & habanero, sea salt’s gritty, necessary kiss.
Lover, we are right to pray no grace. Lover,
we are wrong. This supper, like all love
& supper, is animal & sacred. We ought to eat raw
& wild & know beneath every saintly skin
the fever blood yet races. We ought to fast to idiocy
& maffle holy litanies, know the world is world
& more. Oh, this night let our only penance
be to heft the bowl & despite the stares
lick the blue stone clean, then down Pentecost sing
the cobbled road home, there give ourselves
to other hungers. Oh, later, let it be later—
if that other penance might wait a year, a day—
please, an hour—yet even as we lip
the final runnel of salt & fire, like hunger
I feel it rising, remaking this & every hunger,
memory’s empty succor & sweet sting.



Complaint with Drought and Economic Downtown

Mock orange gone rusty and slack,
the hard, weedy pinks of hollyhocks—
oh, what might drink this dry light

and shine? In a season of such want
it seems nearly indecent, my child’s brimful
laugh, her delight in the alley’s sunblown gravel.

The real work is to remain human—
to remember, always, that like the ashy stone
she fists and studies, then turns to offer,

she is only one among the others.
Oh, I know, yet fall still to my knees,
make of my hands a cup. This rock I receive

as if her touch were alchemic, as if
her choosing and her giving are enough.




Joe Wilkins is the author of a memoir, The Mountain and the Fathers: Growing up on the Big Dry, a finalist for the Orion Book Award, and two collections of poems, Notes from the Journey Westward, winner of the White Pine Press Prize and the High Plains Book Award, and Killing the Murnion Dogs, a finalist for the 2012 Paterson Poetry Prize. His work has appeared in The Georgia Review, The Southern Review, Harvard Review, Ecotone, The Sun, Orion, and Slate, among other magazines and literary journals, and been collected in Writing Today, Best American Magazine Writing, Best New Poets, New Poets of the American West, The Southern Poetry Anthology, and Utne Reader. Though born and raised in eastern Montana, Wilkins now lives with his wife, son, and daughter in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, where he teaches writing at Linfield College.

Read poetry by Joe Wilkins appearing in Issue 24, and his essay “The Book of Water” appearing in Issue 25.

Ceviche photo courtesy Shutterstock. is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, artwork, case studies, and more since 1997.