where the water is

by lauren lockhart


men with their mile counting and their maps
            maps with their measurement and

lines,
a curious violence.

the Aspen bends where she wishes, stooping

to touch a white rock
nameless
I am surprised to find that she touches me first

and the Hackberry tree advises
that I follow the bird.

I know which one she means,
the one that fits inside my eye

which means
go where the water is

which means
name your daughter before the men begin to measure her.

anatomy of the profit

by lauren lockhart


one day
while I was floating inside her
my mother gave me a story

with her blood she gave it to me—
a transfused history which has removed my marrow
and replaced it with

fibers from a Douglas Fir.

born from one womb to enter the next—
Earth wounds me and heals me in the same breath.

her story opens
with a perverted momentum—
acres of clear-cutting
which is unlike the cycled fires,

and I do not want to trade my blood.
our infections are each a gift but I can trade my name
as a prelude to forgiveness.
            maybe.

when I am spine down on the ground outside,
I am home.

and I can hear my body’s wooden voice
which is her voice
which is the voice of this place, still

I cannot decide whether to sleep
outside with a spade
or in the basement with the mold.

medicine moves down

by lauren lockhart


weeping,
the water drained from hawk’s belly
rolls down,

sweet like
milk in the sun

the stream collides with all three parts of my
mind and lulls the inflammation there into a

weighted peace.

It begins with the center-

my heart knows it is my organ
and my nest
it knows it is a borrowed comfort

like a sudden breeze through the window

amber liquorish root
shining in the glass

sketch of a fig tree

by kelli russell agodon


Halfway through the day with the sun like a halo
over my neighbor’s house, I think about God
and time and if it’s possible to feed my soul with a pen
and ink drawing I saw at a museum by an artist
whose name I didn’t recognize.

Somewhere across the country my house is falling apart,
or maybe it did years ago, returning to my old neighborhood
to realize the streets were never as big as I thought
and the house I lived in was not as nice
as the house down the road, but I was never allowed
to walk that far.

I’m older now and what’s falling apart is the sunset
I try to watch from my office window
where I’m surrounded by books
and it doesn’t matter how much the fog moves in
or if there’s a neighborhood where kids fight

about the color of poppies. I think back to the fig tree
that grew in my yard and how the leaves always reminded me
of being somewhere else or in the middle of a Rousseau painting
where the jungle was a prayer and everything I needed
was above me and all I had to do was reach up,
all I had to do was open my hands.

writing studio d: a retrospective in spring

by kelli russell agodon


— Port Townsend, Washington

Imagine this: it’s the day before Easter
            and beautiful if you love sun 

and birdsong and egg hunts, but not 
            if you’re wishing for rain, if you think Jesus 

is a distraction from real life and birdsong 
            is the unexpected alarm now waking you 

before 6 a.m. But it is, beautiful, the day before 
            Easter and you have to drive forty-five minutes

to watch your daughter at a two-minute Easter egg
            hunt, but that is three hours from now

and right now, you’re in a room typing a poem.
            Imagine this: It’s the week before Easter

and you’ve planned a writing retreat with friends, 
            to go to a haunted apartment to write

for five full days, five full days, because there is
            nothing more you want to do 

than lose yourself in your words. But you’ve 
            learned to stop saying “retreat” and use 

the term “residency” because others
            think you’re on vacation, some sort of

girl’s weekend with wine and pedicures. No, 
            this is where they’ve become confused.

This is where a friend says, It’s so nice 
            your husband can watch your daughter

as if he’s not related to her, as if he’s not 
            responsible for her care. And there was

this week I found myself
            annoyed because my daughter’s teacher 

wrote me after my husband went
            on a field trip with her class:

Your husband was a wonderful chaperone.
            Thank you for sharing 

him with us. And I wanted to hit
      reply say, Dads get points 

just for showing up. Imagine 
      the teacher ever writing 

my husband to say, Thanks for sharing 
      your wife with us. Thank you 

for not only being a dad who showed up, 
      but also a Filipino dad, 

you’ve added so much diversity 
      to this busload of white kids. 

Imagine this: It’s the day before
      Easter and I’m beautiful 

and not bitter that my generation is still
      stuck between women who live

for their men and the girls who expect 
      more. Maybe they will resent 

their husbands for caring too much
      about hairstyles, for using product.

There’s an Easter Egg hunt in less than 
      three hours and I’m frothing 

about relationships, about already having drank 
      my first cup of coffee and it’s empty, 

instead of realizing I’m still here, in this
      room looking out to a forest 

of blackberry bramble, of trees with moss
      on the north side, just like

in the Camp Fire Girl book I had as a child
      when I believed that good deeds

created beads and patches and I could rename
      myself Kekoa because it meant

Brave One, because I would grow up
      to be thankful for my ability to start

fires when the other girls fumbled with their flint.
      And while in this town, Jesus is a distraction

because he’s walking up the street in a tiny toga
      with an Elvis in wings

singing, Hunka-hunka burning love during the Easter
      parade because it’s hippie-dippie here.

I know where I reside best and how I can leave 
      last minute from a beautiful day-before-

Easter-morning to arrive back into my life of family 
      members who forget to drag the garbage 

down to the corner and be thankful I only start fires
      because someone needs warmth

but otherwise, I can leave the flint in my pocket and
      no longer create spark just to prove I’m the best.

in praise of staying married

by kelli russell agodon


In perfect middleness,
in the winter of waxwings
and imperfect feathers, lost

friends—
we are not leaving
our nest. Like others

who aren’t entwined
in the honeysuckle, in the blackberry
vines, we stay knotted.

Like clouds refusing to be part
of the mushroom, we rained.
We loved our curves

and our appetite
for showers. Don’t get me wrong,
our mistakes have flooded

the valley, flooded
our blue farmhouse until
the living room was underwater.

Praise the trees and chairs
we climbed to stay dry,
not the wings

that might have brought us here,
but the round bellies
of birds hopping through

puddles, not beautiful,
but full, complete
with their berry-stained beaks.

lilacs

by kathleen flenniken


As though we could string pearls into a necklace

of only good moments, between knots of waxed

string. Tonight, a month after the last lilac bloomed,

I finally noticed, and no hothouse could make the bushes

flower again late, early, whatever you call the period

after you’ve lost everything. Still, cells replicate,

shed skin is replaced. We are not who we were.

I’d seen the lilacs, gone through the motions

of breathing in, swirled the scent in the goblet

of my brain but I wasn’t listening until

this evening, after the first warm day in June

when I considered how fine a bunch of lilacs

would be, enough to fill my arms, to hide my face

in their tender, sweet nostalgia for ordinary life.

1960s tv

by kathleen flenniken


Blue beacon of the evening, formulaic, reassuring, half-witted, half-
cocked. We half-watched the clock to gauge our excitement, passive
as our heroes bounded toward danger—

then the ads for Geritol, Noxzema, Salems, and Kools. No danger
of changing channels—the TV was half
a room away, NBC and CBS our only choices. The best shows were past

our bedtime anyway. We passed
our happy childhoods lit by a flickering screen as dangerous
as quicksand, as a girl with a palm-sized gun, as Simon Bar Sinister in half-

hour predicaments. Now we half-believe that fictional past. Danger, Will Robinson.

from a classroom

by kathleen flenniken


— after Richard Shelton
 

Thirty-two students stare in rows.
In their private minds
pink dahlias bloom, swans fan their wings,
a dog barks behind a barbed-wire fence.
No one raises a hand or answers the question.

Thirty-two pink dahlias bloom in rows.
Students raise a barbed-wire fence.
No one questions the barking dog.
Swans stare behind their fans.

A dahlia stares. Pink hands
fence private minds. Questions
raise their rows of wings.
The swans answer thirty-two.

A pink dahlia answers a barbed-wire stare.
No one raises the question.
Thirty-two students bloom
behind their wings.

juxtaposition

by allen braden


— for Kevin Miller
 

Ice in a riverbed: a word
In your mouth: each remembers

The other. Your joy only
One reflection: the way grease

From a boy’s palm darkens
A page. Each time perishable

Freight thunders by, he feels
Hopeful: The girl he’ll leave

Flexes her calves deliberately
Every rung up a picker’s ladder

In Coup’s orchard by the river.
How can anyone make a living

Of departures: when crossing
The line can mean nothing

But distance, a vanishing point
Beyond which light won’t enter?

I mean when the river’s iced over
Horses, a few then hundreds,

Surge across: like one current
Over another: liquid and solid.

Come spring, quick thaw spells out
Sacrament: Or is that sacrifice?

 


“Juxtaposition” first appeared in Poetry International.