Wendy Willis just released her debut collection of poetry, Blood Sisters of the Republic, this fall. To give you an idea of how essential this collection is, here is a poem excerpted from it.
I was born under the sign of the pulp mill.
Learned to love it long after owl wars
shirred shut the shades. Baby, I know onions
can keep up to six months, but I can’t say what burns—
except tall grass & skinks. In this town,
false pregnancies are common among men.
Answer me this: Should I measure my days
in un-ripe peaches and nail clippings? In screens
slamming or bees dropping? There are field burns
& pandemics to consider. And how do teacup
tempests stack up against the price of oil? In the end,
it’s velocity that divides the sheep from the goats.
Blueberries take two years to bear so I guess I’ll kiss
the Catholic lawyer-poet direct on the lips.
But, at least it’s April and the peas are in.
What powers the night light & the Ouija board?
Holy Mary, mother of God, crushing grapes, still
pink-lipped and blessed among women.
A bird in the hand is worth two
in the bush unless the bush is burning
or the hand is grubbing or the bird
has learned to bite the hand
that feeds it (or the right
to remain silent).
Is it beeswax or lye soap? Cattle futures
or cat calls? What then is the future
of the peach orchard or snow out of season?
What of the baby’s nap or cradle cap?
Which storm gains & which shore loses?
What seeps? By that I mean, what hurts?
I’m saving soup beans for the worst case,
but what do I know of loss? My daughters
can’t tell time, and I neither admit nor deny
kissing lawyers. Or poets. Or skinks.
I avoided greenchain with skinny ankles
& a bird in the hand. Baby, open your ears now.
Don’t cook chicory in an iron pan.
It blacks. The sheik hangs men, but the state
of Oregon Arkansas West Virginia
Texas shoves a needle. I hear dandelion root
purges the liver. I wonder
if it works on hangmen or mules.
My babies can’t tell time, but this state’s prisoners
are tinkering the clocks. A slave & a mule
are turned back on account of a false blue
warmspell. The border man sings:
Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Three bags full.
I’ll give up maps for love.
The eight-year-old’s belly is tight as a button.
Cover your ears now. A book in the hand
is no different than sleeping timber rattlers
or half-hoarded auto bodies. False springs false
pregnancies false ceilings false confessions false
comparisons falsies. Baby, how can I tally that?