★ ★ ★ ★


Lummi Island, August

Beyond the water, more water.
Islands breach, rise out of the sound.
Beyond the islands, ocean meets

the edge of what we see.
I wake to the smell of blackberries
and salt, the talk of too many birds

to name on one morning.
Weather breaks in the west,
a ribbon of blue. The sea runs deep

and cold, salmon streaming by Legoe Bay,
the engine burr when calm
is scrawled by white wakes, when planes

write across the flat clouds and fade.
I will send out my prayer to the cedars
and firs. I will call to these whales

that are not whales and listen.
Year after year we’ll ferry back
to stand on this hill and look out

over the sound gray-glinting
under the sun stepping down the sky,
the light dry on our skin

where margins loosen
between our blood and the wide air,
blur in the permeable world.

Evening Lies Down in the Grass

Our past spun as fine
as spider silk strung
from lilac to musk rose—
the last white blooms cling

to bluer air, the sky
a shell forgotten
in the sand, hour before
dusk drops its sleeves.

In clover we grow old
while the yard becomes
a meadow’s fierce abundance
and ask that life stop

for one breath held
like a photograph
snared in mid-summer,
these mutable days

leaning toward winter’s dark,
its early flourish of stars.


Blur and float, heat tricks
and tires the eye, blotches

in this blue and violet air,
is it our dead reflected,

swimming like jellyfish,
a bloom just out of reach?

Here the tide hovers
above wires humming

where lost ones linger
down to gravel shoulders,

to cheatgrass hollowed gold,
dusk silvering the sky

and this road hard north
toward that smudge of oak,

the wind a hand in my hair
under these attendants

unspoken, unnamed,
the wishes, the fish,

the ones who got away,
or is it our own selves

drifting, landing,
our living all around?

Joannie Stangeland is the author of In Both Hands and Into the Rumored Spring from Ravenna Press, and three chapbooks. Her poems have also appeared in Prairie Schooner, Cimarron Review, The Southern Review, and other journals.