Fernlight, stonelight, hemlocklight— call it a tongue of riverlight, this which licks the lengths of my daughter and me,
as with our every step— halting, hand-in-wet-hand— the river itself licks and swallows ankles, shinbones, waists. That way,
I say, stopping mid-stream, pointing up the mountain, the river crashes, thins, begins. And that way it sags and deepens, belly rolling
with salmon bones. Just six years old, she nods as if she already knows. Then reaches clean to her toes, comes up cupping the wet light. And here,
she says, pouring from her hands into mine, is where we live, in the light and in the trees, in the river, you and me.
after Cecily Parks
Dogwood, iris, tight green fig. Empty house, early light’s jig. Pink, rain-faded chalk on the mossy, buckled sidewalk. Someone, yes, used to live here— not us, but someone called them dear. Not us, child, not this year.
For the Ones Who Watched & Said Nothing
Even though that kid threw the firecracker, all of those kids… watched, all of them did nothing. – Liz FitzGerald, witness to the start of the Eagle Creek fire, which would go on to burn over 48,000 acres in the Columbia River Gorge
How good the whistle & thin bang how on just another summer day stupid toothsome & terrifying you feel it now don’t you up from the groin & gut the drawn threads of blood the wind revises the sky the pines you very well know you’ve been told we all of us have been you will never forgive you
after Christopher Howell
In the black hour of ice & shine, before the wind, before the great trees shrug & sigh, scattering the night’s glass,
some few lights edge the silent highway, the machines we hear about & fear running hot far past the limits of this or any
small town. Now God puts his shoulder to a snow shovel, heaves a bladeful, & breathes,
wipes at the lace of freeze in his mustache. No guarantees, he knows— no pensions,
no thirty-five year watches, not even a visit to the proctologist, not until next year, anyway.
Still, he would like a cup of coffee. He would like to lift himself into the ruffed chest of an overwintering sparrow, say the lovely, stupid one
who despite the cold blue stone of sky flaps from the attic-vent of the abandoned craftsmen & careens over the street & me,
& I think, So long, God. Do what you have to do, God. By God that old house is really empty now, isn’t it?
Joe Wilkins’s debut novel, Fall Back Down When I Die, waspraised as “remarkable and unforgettable” in a starred review at Booklist, and his memoir, The Mountain and the Fathers, won a 2014 GLCA New Writers Award. He is also the author of four previous books of poetry, including When We Were Birds, winner of the 2017 Oregon Book Award in Poetry. His latest collection, Thieve, won the 2018 Blue Lynx Award in Poetry and was published in the fall of 2019. He lives with his family in western Oregon, where he directs the creative writing program at Linfield College.