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C.N.P Poetry 

  • Writer's pictureCathexis Northwest Press

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

in fragments




to take our breath away

to return a pulse

millenniums later

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,

their sanctuary

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—

crust pierced

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

I am

awake again

and like the small congregation,

still among

the living,


the size of houses

are silently leaving

in a line.

Neighbor North

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.

Your mid-century,

a white vessel—

with no frills or trim

adrift on a flat green

that never changes

nor blossoms

even in spring.

Though now

the new listing sign

is lilting like a sail,

starboard and abeam.

Another hour,

and I’ll look out over

the night ocean

of a darkened yard.

For now

your flat screen,

a beacon

maritime blue

illuminates a room

where the living

still happens

in primetime.

Your lot

an anchorage

that doesn’t budge,

the rest of the block



sweet laundry

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?

Allison deFreese:

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


A dF:

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?

A dF:

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?

A dF:

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


A dF:

Poems are like children or cats, they take their own shapes, their own



Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice?

A dF:

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

and submitting.


What is your editing process like?

A dF:

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?

A dF:

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.


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