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Joni Wallace

Landscape with Wasps


The Interior

Nocturne with Owls

Elegy with Sharp and Broken

Landscape with Wasps

Everything taken, donated to charity, except for your Little Wonder banjo, a pair of boots, a belt buckle, a paper on missile steering mechanisms, the farm ledger for crop yields. Except for magpies,    


except for the river ribboning through the valley, the cow dog, wasp nests under the deck’s railings. Sleet comes to shroud it all, verglas in the weeds, a skeletal veil transforming into tracery, a snow lace, pearled


splinters slant-falling on a fence, clothesline, barn, the house.  For a month, the dog carries a deer’s leg everywhere.  Buries it, digs it up.   Brute obsession in the bones of March.   


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Melancholy in a skein of geese, sight and sound, its corresponding waves. What is emotion, you say, but a series of electrical impulses.  You, a scientist. You who refuse to look at old photographs,


 Some of those people are gone now


you say, you don’t want to feel whatever it is:  to be. It was positively your last winter.  Mars a red dot juxtaposed next to a crescent, night-place where I turn the clock back, tick tock, the endless waiting,


                Don’t touch that dial

You kids are gonna break it


the walls lying so I can’t recognize your voice anymore.   All night I turn the dial. Radio in the room where I was a child.  Radio what carries you off in the end.  Here in the ghost-box. Your blue suit, your tie with silver tips. Six squares, eight exact angles, the tiny holes insomnia makes.

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The Interior

The river foregrounds its babbling, inside it, trout, smaller fish dart, drift along a pebble floor, on the banks, ants carrying broken crickets,   the cunning moss covering over, stones, a sand bank, reeds.   


Here the foragers, raptors, predators, prey, hunt, scavenge, feed below a fresco sky, ceiling of bas relief, trumpeting geese, spirals of hawks, cloud scatter. Fox hollows, owl holes, nesting grottos, badger dens,


beaver dams, deer beds, weasel tunnels, mar and make ruins, scars and hills on the valley floor.  You there, irretrievable. Your house in the floodplain, two sheds on a knoll, the rusted tractor chained to a fence.                                                                    

You never left.  You never leave.  The river drains, overflows in the not-human, a landscape etched in bestiary detail, infinite tableau. Theater of your final, unreadable mind.

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Nocturne with Owls

Summer                                    by the river

an owl kiting                                        over

silent                             I have come to see

your grave                    sometimes you are

below                  its winged shadow open

arms of a saint                     Come to Jesus

on a billboard                      before the turn

after the bridge                        the dirt road

narrows to                                          an owl  

calls                                                      scurry               

of a vole                                   under leaves

its solid                                                  heart              

sinew                                                       guts                   

you hear                                        the owlets

on the phone                              of the wind

are you happy now   are you happy now?


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Elegy with Sharp and Broken

The horse explosive, snorting, turns its neck, waits for a sign

to say how hard the rain will be, what the storm will bring.

Clouds spun from water, dust molecules, particulates, balloon

out on the horizon, rush in and around the animal’s fear, which

thinks only to bust down the fence, run, horse fleeing up-wind,

horse fleeing dust-devils, a tumbleweed’s sharp, and so fails

to see below its feet the iron grid, ringing trap of a cattle guard,

and caught by a leg, the form felled.

                           Your father cried when he had to put that horse down

my mother said.  The only time she’d ever seen him.

Some things can’t be fixed.  The close-up, the detail,

is sound.  Thunder, a gunshot, the bone splits, a cloud

bursts. It is hard to tell a raindrop from a tear.

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Joni Wallace earned her MFA at the University of Montana and is the author of three books of poetry: Kingdom Come Radio Show, Barrow Street Press, 2016, finalist for the Colorado Prize, the Besmilr Brigham Award, Word Works’ Washington Prize, and AROHO’s To the Lighthouse Award; Blinking Ephemeral Valentine Four Way Books, 2011, winner of the Levis Prize (selected by Mary Jo Bang); Redshift (Kore Press, 2001), which garnered a fellowship from the Arizona Commission on the Arts. She lives in Tucson, Arizona, where she teaches at the University of Arizona Poetry Center.

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