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poemoftheweek poem of the week


Christianne Balk


The Breeze Nudges Junipers, Promising 


cool air soon.  Forget the talk of Grandpa’s

tests, doctor this and doctor that, grown-ups

casting glances at the Atlas of the Human Body


left open on the kitchen counter all day, road

maps networked in red and blue around a place

none of us knew, broken pumps, melted casings,


forty acres left so dry the cattle lay down

motionless.  Birds panting.  Remember the dust

devils dancing in the driveway?  Their swirling


made you laugh.  Now you cry for Daddy’s-Daddy

as if he’s gone somewhere.  The branches outside

our window move between us and  the moon


pulling us together in a waving,

underwater web of shadow and light, rocking

both of us towards the man whose heart


ticks at the center of this house.  Grandpa’s

okay now, sleeping in the room

next to ours.  If you close your eyes you might


see the jagged mountains we flew above to get

here, new green softening the edges of the ash

slopes rimmed with trees laid down in rows,


polished silver by the heat.  Drift down, sleep-

winged cottonwood seed, count miles of open ditches

carrying the Deschutes to pastures filled


with sage, green rabbit brush, fescue, thistle,

bitter brush, manzanita, and wild rose.  The pig

bends her legs and slowly sinks into her wallow.


The gray-mantled ground swallow burrows deep,

curling close to cool roots.  The chickens cluck

around brimming pails.  Slow-eyed horses lower


their muzzles into troughs and the grownups stop

pacing the living room as if it were an airport.

In your sleep, see us fill your glasses with


clear water pulled from lava rock six hundred

feet below, talking lazily of water rights, as if

tonight we were any night, all of us together.


                   -from Desiring Flight 

BIO: Christianne Balk is the author of Desiring Flight (Purdue UP) and Bindweed (Macmillan), which was awarded the Walt Whitman Award for 1985. Her poems appear in Ploughshares, The Atlantic, Harper's, Willow Springs, and Alaska Quarterly Review.

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