Poem of the Week, by Hannah Marshall

Once, doing laundry, I reached into the bottom of the washer to pull out a wet brown sock. But it wasn’t a sock. It was a bat, velvety soft, small, and lifeless. Bats have an affinity for me, at least judging by how many have found their way into the house, and I’ve never killed or wanted to kill one. The shock of that sensation –expecting a sock and holding instead a once-living, once-flying creature, is still with me, like a strange revelation.

The Moth, by Hannah Marshall

Cicadas brush the dark street with wing and tymbal
as I walk in the surprise cool of this July evening.

I open my lips to breathe in deep
and a moth flutters between my teeth, buzzes

on my tongue for just a moment before I choke
in the street, bend and spit.

I do not see it fly away. I feel its wings
on my mouth for hours afterwards, a blessing

of dust not unlike Isiah’s coal, the purifying
burn. The urgency of the moth’s sand-colored body,

its baptism in my spit—I spit and spit
to remove the memory of its soft bristles.

The moth, alone now, staggers toward a fluorescent streetlight
bearing a sticky revelation, teeth and lips,

the knowledge of speech, the warmth
of finding oneself nearly consumed by god,

and yet spared, not by piety or plea,
but by humming, holy revulsion.

For more information about Hannah Marshall, please check out her website.
Words by Winter: my podcast

Poem of the Week, by Garous Abdolmalekian

Flags in general make me uneasy, especially now. Tromping around the streets of this little town, I see regular American flags, thin blue line flags, Q flags, skull flags, and other flags I can’t identify and don’t want to.

If I had to fly a flag I think I’d fly a potsticker flag. Hard to go wrong with potstickers.

Pattern, by Garous Abdolmalekian

Your dress waving in the wind.
is the only flag I love.

trans. Idra Novey and Ahmad Nadalizadeh (2020)

For more information about Garous Abdolmalekian, please click here.
Words by Winter: my podcast

Poem of the Week, by Jay Hopler

A few days ago a friend was running in the canyons when he found a hiker lying on the trail, unmoving and unresponsive. He called 911 and gave him CPR until the medics arrived and took over, but the hiker died there, on a warm, sunny day filled with the scent of coastal sage, the sea glinting in the distance.

The ending of this gorgeous poem, which shocked but also thrilled me when I first read it, made me think I shouldn’t send it out, not in this ongoing pandemic. But I changed my mind. Love and the memory of it are what I hope for myself and for everyone in the world, in the end that will come for all of us.

love & the memory of it, by Jay Hopler

spook not at the shook world w/ all its viruses and murder hornets
instead that summer evening call to mind when you drove alone
               over iowa
the light in the fields how long it was how in love you were w/ it
& the air & the world & that girl that atomic girl you would one
               day marry
or call to mind a summer evening half a life from then & the park
               by the river the way her laughter
echoed off the rocks
in sparks that sighed
into the water

it was she that lit the world just then
& not that ember of a sun
her light like a struck string fretting its zing against the pic-
nic tables

may that be the music you hear
when they unplug the ventilator

For more information about Jay Hopler, please click here.

Words by Winter: my podcas

Poem of the Week, by Robert Okaji

After our dog Petey died it felt like a betrayal to go for a walk without him, without the constant pauses so he could sniff, pee, investigate. I was finally used to hiking without a leash in my hand when we adopted our pup Paco. Now it feels strange when someone else takes him out and I have only myself to account for.

The ghosts of Petey remain: a few black curls clipped the day he died, his old blue collar, his tags, the bright halter and extendable leash that are too big for Paco. The memory of how Petey, after eight months of hard work on his part and mine, heeled at a single command while I’ve never bothered to train small Paco to heel at all – we just keep him on a 4′ lead.

Sometimes we unthinkingly call Paco by his predecessor’s name. Sometimes I wonder if Paco senses the dog who came before him.

While Walking My Dog’s Ghost, by Robert Okaji

I spot a baby rabbit
lying still in a clump of grass
no wider than my hand.

It quivers, but I pretend
not to have seen, for fear
that the dog, ghost or not,

will frighten and chase it
into the brush, beyond
its mother’s range,

perhaps to become lost
and thirsty, malnourished,
filthy, desperate, much

like the dog when we
found each other that hot,
dry evening so long ago.

For more information about Robert Okaji, please check out his website.

Words by Winter: my podcast

Poem of the Week, by Charles Ghigna

Even though I conjured them up, the people in my books are real and alive in my mind and heart. They wonder about the meaning of life the same way I do, they look at the sun gleaming on the ice crusted snow and think how beautiful, the way I do, they look back on words said and unsaid, deeds done and not done, and like me they hope that somehow their shortcomings are balanced by their attempts at kindness.

My people live in a parallel world to this one, unless maybe it’s the same world. A few days ago a card arrived, a small Christmas wreath hand-painted on the front. My friend Zdrazil’s best friend sent it, and in it she wrote that he’d painted the card last year as he waited for his stem cell transplant to take. Holding it, I felt his presence the way I often do even though he’s passed on. He and others are the negative space to our living bodies, the light that becomes shadows. Love and comfort to you all in the new year.

Present Light, by Charles Ghigna

If I could
hold light
in my hand

I would
give it
to you

and watch it
your shadow.

For more information about Charles Ghigna, please check out his website.
Words by Winter: my podcast