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Joe Wilkins


Listen to Joe Wilkins read this poem (with introduction):

Sunrise from a Bench on Esplanade

So what’s at issue, it seems, is light—
the way it slips
and tangles in the magnolia leaves,
the fire of it on a blown skin
of silver foil.

Perhaps the issue is shadow—
that man with the cardboard hat, shaking
his strung charm
of beer cans.
The way heels click
across pavement.

Maybe stone—
how it gives, and gives so cleanly:
like ice now,
but when the sun goes down,
and the music gets loud,
it burns.

Maybe wind—
the dank breath of cypress
always on your tongue.

Maybe water—
the river blue inside you.

Or earth—
delicacy of rot: chicken bones
and weeds and a shack’s
broken neck.

Or all things—
cold throat of this bright morning,
those three stray dogs,
skin of your wrist
on my wrist, the light
in the leaves.



Listen to Joe Wilkins read this poem (with introduction):


I drove through you, and out of you, and the world then
was lit like it’s usually lit—winter trees bright
and black, their shadows black as well, the bright

and dirty snow in the ditch. A moment ago, I couldn’t see
a thing. Yet now the tin siding on that lonely warehouse winks
and glisters, the dark graffiti cries so clearly: Forever my life.

Once, long ago, I sat on the front-room floor and stared
at the wreck of my father in his easy chair—his bald
and flaking head, red fist of face, chest collapsing

with the sound of a broken bone. He opened his eyes.
“What the hell are you looking at?” he asked. “What’s wrong
with you?” I was nine years old. I left. I never saw him alive again.



Joe Wilkins was born and raised on a sheep ranch north of the Bull Mountains of eastern Montana. He now teaches writing at Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa, and his poems, stories, and essays appear in recent issues of the Georgia Review, the Southern Review, Mid-American Review, Indiana Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, and Orion. He was recently awarded the Ellen Meloy Fund for Desert Writers for his proposal to travel the high plains along the Rocky Mountain front.
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