methow grist 2011-2014 archive


"If I had to live my life again, I would make a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least
once every week. The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness." ~ Charles Darwin

Poems by Sam Owen


His emerald feathers luminous
in the sun-blasted lake, the mallard
pursues. The object of his lust is mute,
dusty-brown, some splotches of black.
She is not attractive and she knows it.

He circles her because she is convenient,
the only female at this end of the lake.
He pumps his feet furiously,
head bobbing up and down.
Notice me! Notice me!
All pomp and brilliance.

She stares straight ahead
and paddles toward a tangle of cattails.
The drake lurches from behind.
A flutter of wings, two squawks,
and it’s over.

He swoops up in celebration.
She dives suddenly under the water
deep and deeper, coming up shaking
head to tail-feather, shuddering
and frantic to forget.

He will use her in other ways.
She will see it in the way he parades
past the other drakes, and how
he cocks his head to catch his reflection.

She keeps to her corner of the lake
glancing every now and then over her shoulder,
knowing, as all who have been used know,
to keep the wake behind her clear.

Visiting My Friend Who Is Blind

How do you hold it all in
your memory – the distance from chair
to door, the smile of your wife,
where you left your leather gloves?
In your cluttered kitchen
I wonder how you find
what you need.

You show me
the dulcimer you made, coon-skin
banjo, show me the saw
that shapes the wood. I am afraid
of its sharpness,
how it can pierce flesh.

We fish for snapper
in the blue dusk, and across the inlet
swans teach their young
to fly. Nothing like it seen before,
I am speechless at the sight
of pumping wings, webbed feet
slapping the long run across water.
Swans, you guess. I tell you how many.

We find a book of quizzes
and play with its trivia.
I sing answers to songs
of the fifties, you name world capitals –
Canberra, Cairo. I give you the Bible
quiz and ask what God created
on the first day. Light, you answer.
Let there be light.


This skill is passed down
like a ruby heirloom, color of blood,
a craft precise as a jeweler’s cut,
a many-faceted dance,
stepped together like Cotton-Eyed Joe.
A minuet in dirt and dung.
we match each others moves,
rope the calf and throw him down,
innoculate, castrate,
burn with shapely irons.

We are so close to this work,
we swallow it, The singe of hair and hide
loads our lungs, presses against ribs
like heartbreak. Like travelers
passing through customs, the calves
are counted, marked, let go to wobble
into a strange country of pain.

It’s the way a new love wobbles forward
innocently, then scours the heart
with black marks rocking, rolling,
tumbling like dice. The moves
lovers make toward each other
are out of time. The dance burns
and these are the steps: Tumbling K,
E Lazy A, Ponytrack, Bootjack,
Slash Heart Open.

Chapbook, "Facing the Weather Side" published by Basilisk Press. Poems have appeared in publications such as Poetry Northwest, Calyx, Sourth Dakota Review, Seattle Review, Tar River Poetry, Cincinnati Poetry Review, Hollow Spring Review, Clay and Pine, Welter. Two artist residencies at the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming.