Sound, Rhythm and Meaning: A Pacific Northwest Chapbook Curated by David Wagoner

By | 22 March 2012

Lillo Way was born and grew in Havre de Grace, Maryland, has been a professional dancer, actor and is a therapeutic yoga instructor. She is a reader on National Public Radio’s Selected Shorts program. She lives in Seattle. I’ll allow her poem and all the other poems that follow speak for themselves.

Le Rayon Vert

Look here, a mere inch stripe
of fire orange sunset holding its own
under a bumpy blue curtain
socked between the great-dome sky
and the puny line of city buildings
beyond the window sill.

I am content with that slender
golden Cleopatra snake of color
– we’re easy to please here in Seattle –
when my eyes are struck with a stabbing’s-worth
of candlepower as the sun slides herself
right into that skinny strip
now not so bright after all.

I’m telling you that disc’s shining a path
across the lake from there to me
worthy of any buxom harvest moon.
But here’s the kicker: At the end of her short show
she winks an unmistakable rayon vert
magical reward for willing one’s eyes
not to blink during her last second of visible life.

And then – I know you won’t believe this –
the green lingers, snuggles girlishly
against an upended skyline rectangle,
and tosses out a pinch of lime juice
to the lake’s ripple tips.

You are going to tell me green flashes
happen only over oceans and so I thought.
Never in all my years of watching the sun
disappear behind Jersey City did I see
anything even slightly verdigris,

And certainly not the sexy shade of green
she sometimes likes to flash
just at her final exit,
ensuring we won’t forget,
that we’ll watch every single night
hoping she’ll show it again.

Jacqueline Haskins was born and grew up in Denver, Colorado and now lives in Leavenworth, Washington. She is an aquatic biologist.

Mid-summer Forecast

Wind dashed from my palm a flock
of mica— scone-crumbly,
water-colored glass.
My handful of angles flashed up
like a foam of sandpipers
off the ocean’s tongue.

If I could believe like a child
or crone, I would have known
the bone broke my way,
the rabbit’s foot clutched,

my sun-rinsed palm
odds on clean futures
wave upon wave, as sandpipers
whirl, reel, and resettle in surf.

I saw the fawn with her mother
at dusk again last night, staring up
from the irrigation ditch.
Spotted, still, she crow-hops,
teasing the leggy grass,
the big-eyed cars who roar
like mating frogs,

then she freezes, one brown branch
of her mother. We stare-down
until mother and child bend
their necks and rip the grass
as if the world meant
to be this way. Every night,
the nighthawk sings the same
mocking rasps from his beak,
prophet’s death song
when he tucks his wings and falls
and rises, and falls.

Guzzling sandpipers dot-to-dot
the productive edge, just where
the footing incessantly pulls out
from under their toes,
broken cookies of coral grinding
finer. A head-scarfed housewife
fills her grocery cart, talons
pierce a fox kit’s neck,
a cleaning woman unlocks
the door to her workday. Andrea,
her fourteen-year-old daughter,
is at summer camp too,
like the other girls.

At Camp Static Cling,
Andrea and her mother start
with the partner dance, stripping beds.
When the vacuum shouts
at the TV, Andrea shucks
pillowcases. Her friends, upstate,
by the lake, slap mosquitoes—
OMG, they text, thyr trrble—
and raise their hands for
computer animation
and archery.

Andrea lifts a can labeled
air-freshener. If Outward Bound
left Andrea in this hotel laundry
all alone, three whole days
with just three matches, I know
she would wedge both doors open,
let the wind wrinkle through, and fold
into flight.

Jeremiah O’Hagan was born in Marysville, Washington and grew up in Smokey Point. He has been a high school English teacher and is now a newspaper reporter living in Mt. Vernon, Washington.

Dad’s Home

On a summer evening I’m ten,
my dad is just home from work,
sitting in his truck, engine off
and radio on, listening to
the last crackles of “Southern Man,”
which spins my mother in frenzies
with its crazy guitar and Neil Young’s
pitching vocals, a harsh affront
to her robed Baptist choirs.

From the front yard where I’m
catching baseballs with my brother,
I strain to hear the song crying
from the driver’s wing window,
pivoted wide, and I know Dad’s
resting his elbow atop the door,
head leaned back, wearing a t-shirt
with torn-off sleeves and the red
beginnings of a tan. His dark hair
is shot with sawdust and the sweat
of eight hours spent framing hemlock
2-by-4’s in a bowl of sun.

The music drops our baseball
and breaks with the static snap
of the radio and slamming
truck door. We ditch our mitts
and race for the smells of dinner,
banging screen doors, “Dad’s home”,
an announcement that hangs
like a warning above the sink
where we wash our hands
before fidgeting in our seats,
ignoring Mom’s nervous smile,
while he takes his place, scowling
at meatloaf and baked potatoes,
again this week. Then we all choke
down silence, thick as sour cream.

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