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Teri Zipf


The Reason I Love Cottonwoods

Because of dust and locusts
and all the birds that circle
slowly over wheat fields. Once

I saw hawk after hawk climb
air ridges into the blue
and not one folded its wings

to prey. From up here
I can see the Blues curve
an arm around the valley

where you live and I know
every creek that makes its way
through. Garrison. Wildhorse.

Cayuse. Yellowhawk. I can follow
rivers to their source by the trail
of heart shaped leaves and fingerbone

twigs. Crows dip their wings
like winter branches
that rattle in the wind.

You must have been blinded,
or your ears hear only the tumbling
sound of rocks in the river.

Listen to the leaves.
They're falling with hardly
a sound. In spring the sky

will fill with cotton and
their sharp and sacred scent.
Remember how the owl hunched

in the tree turned its head
to look at you, opened
its great wings and fell in empty air.



This Landscape

This landscape of rock cleft
river tugs at a damp place
in me.  I cannot hold
the steep cliffs and petroglyphs,
only those rocks my legs

remember, climbing where
the mountains rise behind
me and the river turns
below.  I drive through smoking

fields where fire prepares
dirt for spring.  Dust
devils whistle me into the canyon.
Tonight I'll wear cinnamon and sage,
reflect fire, burn candles

on my windowsill as leaves
rattle to the ground.  Outside
a moth beats against the light.
I turn in my bed to the moon,

just opening its aperture
over the ridge.  Dust and smoke
stain the air with their dark
scent, coyotes call across the canyon,
something flickers in

the weeds.  The tapping
on the glass begins again.  Shadows
rush over the hillside, pushing
the grass before them.

    Originally published in Outside the School of Theology.



Near Pescadero Creek

Pelicans approach, their long beaks lower
than their backbones, wings set too far
back, like B1s on a bombing run.
From a rocky cliff we watch them

appear from the south and circle
just north of us before flying on again.
I walk carefully, holding my right arm
against my chest. On the shore below, sandpipers

follow the wave out to its farthest
retreat, then run from its rushing
return. The wind tears out
to sea, we are left here

on the edge of the world. Squadron
after squadron of pelicans
arrives from nowhere
and departs into the empty

sky. These days by the sea
I have nothing to say.


Teri Zipf's first book, Outside the School of Theology, won the William Stafford Memorial Poetry Award from the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association. Her work has been published in Kinesis, Rain City Review, Calapooya Collage, and many others. Ms. Zipf has also received a number of fellowships and grants. She is learning to play the fiddle.
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