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C.N.P Poetry 

  • Writer's pictureCathexis Northwest Press

bad partner; on the farm owned by the man who patented velcro

By: Amber French

bad partner


the water never got hot

deluge of silence

until you arrive without reason

claiming repose among the dry bales

I have you tethered

always returning

clandestine, as to keep me unhurt

I never intended to cage your

sick hands


I do not miss the way you would chomp

into apple cores, swallowing everything we’re

told to avoid, whole

and celery leaves, the parts destined for compost

would disappear into your mouth

like me

and my livelihood

because it isn’t enough for you to

do a good deed

recycle, churn soil, grow new nourishment

you need to consume the waste

of the world

take it on as your burden

until you’ve proven some point

I have yet to understand

on the farm owned by the man who patented velcro

where are you when

I want you to blow tepid, reliable air on my open wounds

and where are you when I get sunburnt so deeply that the blisters

make their debut before the sun even sets

where are you hiding when

the rot in the fence

that toiled to keep me

weak from seasons of moss then ice

then ice then moss then dry

then wet and warm then


finally lets itself go, and

the mares bust through the decay with a mere nudge

set themselves free

only for as long as it takes for them

to display glory in their stride

then remember that their meal ticket

is reliable, tepid, tenderly dispensed air

blown on their wounds

and they come wandering back

to no panic


Amber French is a writer, musician, and fern grove dweller with lots of feelings living on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon. Her writing examines identity and place, and the way they intertwine. She has been featured in The Paragon Press and Structural Damage, among others. Interview With The Poet: Cathexis Northwest Press: So I figured we would just jump right in with the big question: Who is the man who patented velcro? Amber French: When I was a kid my mom fell in love with a horse and she bought the horse. We didn't have a lot of money but my parents got pretty resourceful when it came to paying attention to cork board classified ads. At some point, my parents were doing a work-trade to keep the horse at this farm. I was still a kid-kid, like under 12, before I started getting into all that fun teenage mischief, so I got dragged there every day after school with my dad while he did barn chores. I had a lot of time for introspection. The guys was named Ted, he was sweet and had a barn full of antique cars. CNP: Both of these poems have a wonderful sense of time in them, "on the farm..." has that montage of seasons, and "bad partner" has the before/after separated into stanzas. But they retain a very strong sense of place, they both feel very rooted to me. In fact, when I read them I see them unfolding in the same place--I think both of these poems are so complimentary. Was that intentional? AF: I don't think it was intentional as I was writing them, but during the editing process the pairing of them chronologically represents a growth in ALMOST acknowledging self worth and learning to ask for not only what I need, but what I want from people. This speaks for all sorts of relationships, romantic, platonic, everything in between, and my relationship with myself. When we relate to other people, we're always cultivating something, and I refer back to that notion when I’m writing. The pair do not end on a positive note whatsoever, "velcro" ends in an unresolved conflict. They pair because they're both struggling to figure out the same thing but in different ways. It's hard to write gracefully about being devastatingly disappointed but I tried to pull it off with both of these. CNP: You’re touching on something that I think keeps me coming back to these poems over and over again, and that is the speaker is confident that something is missing in an interpersonal relationship, but the solution remains unresolved. And although the poems do seem to be speaking directly to or about someone, they are open enough for me to put my own experiences into them and sort of live in the poems. They don't force the story onto the reader like many poems with this sort of theme tend to do. They feel deeply personal while allowing me to project my own feelings onto them. AF: I am a people pleaser. CNP: I think another reason these poems fit so well together is that they have a similar grammatical and syntactical feel--both poems keep everything but the "I" uncapitalized, and only use commas--and never have any punctuation at the end of a line (omitting the before/after breaks). Was this another similarity you discovered in the editing process, or a mere coincidence? AF: Grammatically, I tend to write consistently in a certain style by default, the way you're noticing. You hit the nail on the head describing exactly what it is. I wasn't trying to mimic anyone's style in particular, but when I first learned about poetry in a public school setting my teachers always said "you have to learn all of the rules before you break them" and I said to myself "that's bullshit, I am going to learn them and break them simultaneously, watch me" While also not letting anyone watch me and instead keeping what I was writing to myself for a long time. I didn't admit what I was doing could be classified as poetry until I spent 8 years classifying it strictly as song lyrics. I capitalize my "I's" to honor myself because I feel like when I'm writing poetry, that's what I'm doing - releasing my perspective in order to honor my feelings. The inclusion of commas and lack of other punctuation nods to my openness to situations always resolving further and never ending, if I have to name it as something. That took a while to consider. I've never answered that question to anyone but myself. CNP: Your experience with learning poetry sounds eerily similar to my own. Your teacher may have had their heart in the right place, but they were clearly wrong! Its no surprise that you wrote song lyrics predominantly, these poems are so musical in their echo and pace. "...mares bust..." and "...mere nudge..." is so natural and yet so clever. And I am always shocked at the immediate change of pace in "bad partner"--"deluge of silence" is a phrase that needs attention and focus to say. Do you write your poems with the same kind of pace and tempo in mind that you do with lyrics? AF: I do write them with the same pace and process in mind. There is little to no difference in the way I write these things initially, I only decide which fate a piece will endure during the editing process. Sometimes it's both. I recently collaborated with my friend and fellow writer Jake Edgar on a chapbook that consisted of song lyrics of ours that we wanted to see in the printed non-musical form. It was a fun project. I never write a song without writing the lyrics to it first. CNP: Interesting. Do you write first and then decide in the editing process whether it will end up to be a song or a poem? AF: Yes! Always. These days I am much more prone to dedicating things to being poems. I feel more of a sense of community in my life right now with fellow writers than I do with fellow musicians and that dictates a lot of my priorities. We gotta hold each other up, collaborate, and share! CNP: AMEN. Is there a place where we can find your music or get ahold of that chapbook? AF: I play music under the name hay fever and I have since I was 17! Sometimes other people play instruments with me, but these days I mostly go it alone. Those jams can be found at ...I have three chapbooks available right now, one is called "Diagnostics" another is called "they're all dull knives next to you" and the third I had mentioned earlier, the collaboration with Jake, is called "Pop Songs” If anyone wants a chapbook they can email me at or write a craigslist missed connection.* CNP: Awesome! Well, thank you so much for allowing us to publish your work, and for taking the time to do this interview. AF: Thank you for seeing me and hearing me and talking with me! You're great! *”bad partner” and “on the farm owned by the man who patented velcro” both come from the chapbook “they’re all dull knives next to you”



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