C.N.P Poetry 

  • Cathexis Northwest Press

Chicken Bones; Wrecked; Wretched

By: Sam Blauw


Chicken Bones


Chicago fades in honest shades 

pressed violets and pressed bruises

we’re wholesome as broken vows

dizzy pinwheels 

slow-dancing toward goodnight under

the blue line tracks 

sulking clouds with paper-cut slits of 

sun crouch like traitorous friends

we tuck feathers of glass 

behind our ears 

braid strands of light like tinsel 

through bleach-snarled crowns

is this the drugs? you say and moths

beat technicolor waves of origami 

wings against our cheeks

furious and fragile as failing lungs 

a train shatters the August dusk 

roaring like a memory that 

threatens crooked stitches 

my daughter my girl my buddy my

baby with reaching starfish hands 

labored breath on my neck

some six hundred nights and another

lifetime ago

tonight is a fresh ending but less 

(always) than the one I wear like armor

to feel the weight of leaving you I’ll

release her weight from my back

to be present in my city 

to leave it with reverence

I’ll brush the grief from my palms like

slips of her ashes 

we pass goodbye between our fingers

like a lucky coin

our picnic table littered with leftover

summer and Parson’s chicken bones

abandoned negronis in wilting heat

your funhouse eyes ask what you’ll do 

when I go 

clown-sadness and Campari painting 

your lips

I’ll nod and wonder how many pickles 

I’ve eaten from your careless plates

how many bones 

I’ve watched you pick bare with relish

and discard




Wrecked


we’re reckless with relief

once our borrowed door clicks

blinds pulled tightly against

the world

the judgmental weekday sun

gossip leaks through

walls of washi 

humming of housekeepers

stripping sheets and secrets

from ship-wrecked beds 

of other temporary lovers

minutes slip like 

drips of honey

your strumming fingers tease 

and tame

I’ll play tide if you’re my moon

growling approval in my ear

when I’ve bent and behaved

but our light shifts with

reluctance

I’ll scour your body for stray 

hairs 

unthreading 

the stubborn traces of me

from your clothes

we’ll send 

sweetness in the dark

after we’ve scrubbed 

smoke and scalp and cells

of each other 

from underneath our nails

after we’ve climbed into 

separate beds in

separate sleeping houses 




Wretched


I’ll remember the cocaine flint of us, his kiss the barrel of a gun I keep pressing against my temple to feel the chill of it. I’ll remember how my restless heart  made a nest in his lonely one, the calm of patent leather darkness dressed in crisp sheets. He was a grown man who slept  on a slowly deflating air mattress, but I was  the grown woman who had slipped from her bed to follow him there again.  I’ll remember thinking, I’m so sorry I can’t love you, as I laid across his lap with  feral reluctance, purring while pretending his  patient strokes down my spine, deftly  separating muscle from bone and quieting my noise, didn’t feel like home. His pause on  my back was a shiver and absent jingle of  silver as he shook bracelets back from his wrist  to sip from a mason jar perched between my  shoulder blades. It was not quite love, but I  am a stubbornly ruined thing, so I let him  trace earnest hearts on my selfish skin and fell with underserved ease into sleep like absolution. I’ll remember all of this a year later when I’m  still, sharpened teeth tucked away for the day.  As familiar as my own breath I’ll know his sigh when he answers my call. He’ll pull the hoodie  I loved over his bare chest and switch on a light. He’ll find Rumi in the stack of books without  a shelf. We’re a third through; he’ll find our  dogeared spot and settle back into his new bed.  I’ll be almost asleep before he starts reading.


Sam is a Midwest native living in the Bay Area with her husband and daughter. She works in the service industry, where she finds the best and worst of humanity and much of her writing inspiration. Her work often focuses on grief and goodbyes, secrets and Chicago. Interview with the Poet: Cathexis Northwest Press: How long have you been writing poetry? Sam Blauw: I’ve been a keeper of journals and random fiction for as long as I can remember, but poetry wasn’t truly on my radar until I made a (pretty disastrous) attempt at a novel a few years ago. My main character was a narcissist/poet, and I started writing from her perspective when I struggled to get into that head-space. It didn’t take very long for me to realize that creating her ‘work’ flowed much more naturally than the story I was trying to build around it. I’d mistakenly believed that poetry would box me in, but instead found freedom in blurring fiction and autobiography while never having to explain which was which. CNP: Can you remember the first poem you read that made you fall in love with poetry? SB: I was always (still am!) a sucker for Pablo Neruda. His depictions of longing in “Tonight I Can Write (The Saddest Lines)” broke my heart at seventeen before I’d experienced real loss firsthand, and that, I knew, was power. It made me want to write something with the same ability to generate that tug and release of emotion. CNP: Who are your favorite poets? Any specific poems? SB: It’s rare for me to read something new and not find something I love about it (and I am never without a book), so my favorites are constantly changing. My current obsessions are Elaine Kahn and Hala Alyal, both of whom have many lines I read and reread, wishing I’d written them myself. “Even When I Listen, I’m Lying” from Alyal’s recent collection gives me the shivers every time I come back to it. She weaves marriage and sex and heritage together so beautifully that I can’t stop trying to unpack it. CNP: Can you share for us a little bit about your writing process? Any specific rituals that get you in  the zone? SB: A combination of ADD and being a master procrastinator makes finding that process my biggest struggle! I’d love to be a disciplined morning person who sets aside specific time to write, but have come to terms with the fact that I just don’t operate that way. My natural schedule is as nocturnal as being a mother and functioning member of society allows, and most of the work I feel proud of starts as scribbles. I’m constantly trying to decipher my own cursive from the backs of grocery lists and crumpled receipts so I can expand on whatever initial strike of inspiration compelled me to write it down. From there I need alone time, lots of editing, and whatever music suits my mood. CNP: How do you decide the form for your poems? Do you start writing with a form in mind, or do you let the poem tell you what it will look like as you go?  SB: The form usually finds me instead of the other way around. I try to pay attention to the tone of whatever is taking shape; whether its abrupt and demanding of short bursts or more free-flowing tends to determine the end result. I’ve been experimenting with haiku recently and was surprised by how much I enjoy the puzzle of putting my ideas into such a brief and structured format. CNP: Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice? SB: As a new poet myself, my unseasoned advice is to be gentle with yourself. It’s incredibly daunting to read the bios of established writers when you’re starting with nothing, especially when the rejection letters start rolling in. That first wave is tough. You have to believe that you have something unique to offer, even without the validation having your work accepted (yet!). There will always be others with more experience, more formal education, a longer list of achievements and so on...but everyone starts with a blank page. CNP: What is your editing process like?  SB: One of my most frustrating qualities is an inability to tell a story without going off on a dozen tangents...and still maybe not making an actual point at the end of it all. Editing allows me to be much more articulate on paper since I can pare down my thoughts before presenting them to anyone else, which makes it the most satisfying part of my process. I try to write freely without correcting as I go on the first attempt. My instinct is to immediately weed out whatever registers as “bad,” but I’ve learned to trust that what I want to say will be in there somewhere (even if I have to dig it out of several pages of first draft nonsense). CNP: When do you know that a poem is finished? SB: Finishing a piece is a really fluid concept. I can put something aside when I feel it expresses what I wanted to say, though that doesn’t mean I won’t revisit and continue to tinker with it later. It was only when I started to submit my work to publications that I made peace with sticking to an initial feeling of completion.

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