Fragments; Colonies; Neighbors North
By: Allison deFreese
And what if we lost only
what we don’t need?
Two thousand years later
Sappho still stands
with her lopped hands
and her nose gone long ago.
She is blanched like a brain of coral
in a red tide
after the glaciers turned to lace
more perfect than ever today
in her minimalism—
closed and polished,
even the hint of lips
Her words stood time too
to take our breath away
to return a pulse
and shock the heart back
after it has been pronounced
And so this afternoon
the ants return
with the billion year dust
caught in sunlight.
They have entered
through a gap
under the window,
a hole in the universe.
on the counter,
the apse of this sourdough,
a wafer-thin slice
carelessly left there,
the vaulted loaf
having risen in the tin
just in time
for tea and butter—
crumb raptured with bubbles.
At the table, I, too,
sense bread again,
the gritty texture
of toast on tongue —
I smell and swallow;
and this means
and like the small congregation,
the size of houses
are silently leaving
in a line.
The silence is familiar.
We’ve spoken twice
in seven years.
Never a falling out or a riff,
yet the street between us
There’s no traffic
on this channel today.
a white vessel—
with no frills or trim
adrift on a flat green
that never changes
even in spring.
the new listing sign
is lilting like a sail,
starboard and abeam.
and I’ll look out over
the night ocean
of a darkened yard.
your flat screen,
illuminates a room
where the living
that doesn’t budge,
the rest of the block
and supper smells
as we all hold our breath.
Based the Pacific Northwest, Allison deFreese coordinates multi-language literary translation workshops for the Oregon Society of Translators and Interpreters. Her work has appeared in: Crazyhorse, La Piccioletta Barca, and Waxwing.
Interview with the Poet:
Cathexis Northwest Press:
How long have you been writing poetry?
I wrote a poem or two when I was 11 but didn't know how much I liked it
until I was 12.
Can you remember the first poem you read that made you fall in love with
Yes, when I read Dylan Thomas. Nearly all my poetry is a variation on "Do
Not Go Gentle into That Good Night" or "Fern Hill." There is also a *Sesame
Street* song by Bud Luckey I can hear in my poetry.
Who are your favorite poets? Any specific poems?
I've recently been reading work by women from Mexico and South America.
Karla Marrufo, Verónica González Arredondo, María Negroni, and Nidia Cuan
are all very good.
Can you share for us a little bit about your writing process? Any specific
rituals that get you in the zone?
I find it useful to write a poem a day for a whole month, perhaps with a
friend or someone who will hold me to that goal. Knowing you will write a
poem—of some sort or another—by midnight every day for 30 or 31 days will
generate a lot of new material. I keep writing even if the poems are
"drafty" because I can always edit next month.
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
Poems are like children or cats, they take their own shapes, their own
Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice?
Read as much poetry as you can. Reading both the classics and the canon as
well as work by other new and emerging writers from your region or around
the world will help you forge your own unique voice. Also, invent a magic
spell or mantra to use when you submit work to magazines and it is
rejected. It's nothing personal and these aren't even "rejections." They
are part of the rite of passage for the best poets. Be proud. Keep writing
What is your editing process like?
If I'm not writing for a deadline, I prefer to return to my work weeks or
months later and to edit from that perspective of a new reader. Rarely,
there comes that brief flash of inspiration when I can write something all
in one pass and with minimal editing later. This happened recently with a
piece I wrote about pigs in winter that is forthcoming this
When do you know that a poem is finished?
Someone asked me this recently in a Math and Science course that I teach in
Spanish for adults. I said finishing a poem is like solving an algebraic
equation. You know you're done when you're out of numbers and reach the
end. You had to solve a poem. But you also don't need to use everything
that could go into that poem. Writing poetry is also like making sourdough.
You save back the lines that didn't work and start a fresh batch.