POETRY: ISSUE #18

"The Waider" by Joe McDermott, 24" x 26" Photograph, 9/27/2013, Mud Season Review
*Image: “The Waider” by Joe McDermott, 24″ x 26″ Photograph, 9/27/2013

 

Wendy Willis

Featured Poet

 

Stitch

I can barely keep up with the news,
noting the notations, annotating the annotations,
calling roll for the last reluctant mammals.
Even the Hammond B will be held
to account in the tally of usefulness.
So far I can report only this: All the best lamentations
are sung right to left. The ions are anxious
in their losses yet boastful in their gains.
Current disputations dissolve into epigraphs
and tears. Now, the drapes of certainty hang
heavy and frayed. The hours slink by,
scolding me for timidity. Yes, I admit,
the vessel is weak but the wine is strong.
An oligarch walks into a bar.

 

 

"From the Swale" by Joe McDermott, 24" x 26" Photograph, 6/14/2014, Mud Season Review

“From the Swale” by Joe McDermott, 24″ x 26″ Photograph, 6/14/2014

 

 

One Saturday Night at Mary Todd’s Workers Bar & Grill

In the way that such things begin—

A poet walks into a bar in search of America.
Sniffing for flag-soaked bromides and a whiff

of the Wobblies, for one last draught of cockfights
& want ads. For a doughnut philosopher, a breadline

optimist. But the longshoremen are long missing,
and the bar is slumped with a fiddler, a painter,

and a postman who sings in code. Not even a quarter-mile
off the purse-proud wharf and the only right answer is this:

Looking for work. Oh citizens of industry, praise be!
The poet arrives in time for the declamations & gnashing of teeth:

Recall the Benedictines! To labor is to pray!
Then, they pass the baby Jesus hand to hand.

The painter whispers: Memento Mori. As if He could forget.
The others coo back – no, no, it’s Semper Fi.

A hobbled witness now, the poet sits and knits
alongside her clacking mind, nursing her fealty to the nation.

The tenderness of the word coaxed shatters her resolve.
And under her breath: I seem to be the scape-goat for both

drizzle and drought. She turns her ear toward the night-
black river, her tongue toward the deadly sea.

 

 

"The Diagonal" by Joe McDermott, 24" x 26" Photograph, 9/27/2013, Mud Season Review

“The Diagonal” by Joe McDermott, 24″ x 26″ Photograph, 9/27/2013

 

 

Writ of Habeas Corpus

Love in this Republic has small habits,
rising like yeast in mid-summer,
spreading red

from the tip of a tent needle.
But I know enough to ask—
is prophecy more conjure or conjecture?

Answer slow.
The wind is a well-trained dog.
The sunset is the work of a thief.

The price of liberty is the color of algae,
and the earth stops turning in the hour
between dishes and pie.

Even houseguests avert their eyes.
The kitchen throws off its own weather,
hovering between tenderness

and complaint.
Now, my indiscretions tend
toward the botanical. Hothouse and florid,

wicked but too fragile for cross-examination.
I know the key is buried in a shallow pit.
Once I saw a photograph of a wounded rabbit,

a lethal plastic cone over its tiny, wild face,
No wind off the river, no grass underfoot,
just the dark mercy of a hairless, murmuring beast.

 

 

'Myrtle Ripple" by Joe McDermott, 24" x 26" Photograph, 7/06/2014, Mud Season Review

‘Myrtle Ripple” by Joe McDermott, 24″ x 26″ Photograph, 7/06/2014

 

 

Bear Hungry

Is all I can think to call it, all ache and rankness.
It’s been at least three years since I glimpsed one live.
But I saw a C-17, fat and gray and obliterate.
And then another (and another) until it was sometimes four an hour.

It’s been at least three years since I glimpsed one live,
gray carrion carrying men 16 across from here to Lord knows.
And then another (and another) until it was sometimes four an hour.
Now, the Canada geese stay north and settle the Indian school ball field.

Gray carrion carrying men 16 across from here to Lord knows
where. The black bears scrabble the clearcut, shinnying and scratching,
but the Canada geese stay north and settle the Indian school ball field
near my garden where the old dog sleeps and chases a blue shadow.

While black bears scrabble the clearcut, shinnying and scratching,
the gray wolf and the grizzly are nothing but glittered ghosts.
In my garden, the old dog sleeps and chases her blue shadow,
long gone and still longing for an untamed heart.

The gray wolf and the grizzly are nothing but glittered ghosts,
but I saw a C-17, fat and gray and obliterate.
Long gone and still longing for an untamed heart.
Bare. Hungry. Is all I can think to call it. All ache and rankness.

 

 

Illustrative Imagery by Joe McDermott

Artist Statement:

“I use the chaos and order found in the outdoors to approach landscape photography in terms of anxiety, memory, and meditation. In fractions of a second the camera captures realism, or ‘the real’ of the world. However, how each viewer interprets that so-called realism is different. I hope that these photos transport each viewer into her own unique meditative state, and I hope that this state provides the viewer with a more profound view of something she’s seen before. “

Wendy Willis

Wendy Willis is a poet and essayist who lives in Portland, Oregon. Her first book of poems, Blood Sisters of the Republic, was released in 2012 by Press 53. She also serves as the executive director of the Kitchen Table Democracy, a national nonprofit organization housed at Portland State University and devoted to improving democratic governance. In addition to publishing poetry and essays in a variety of national and regional journals and serving as an adjunct fellow in poetry at the Attic Institute, Wendy has served as a federal public defender and as the law clerk to Chief Justice Wallace P. Carson Jr. of the Oregon Supreme Court. She graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown Law Center and holds a BA from Willamette University and an MFA in poetry from the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University.

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