by Laura Lee Washburn
When the snow starts in darkness after a night of rain,
only the baker is up to see it, only the baker.
When the flurries come in late wet dark,
only the crazy runner ruining her knees for the high.
When November comes in warm and windy,
dark high tornadoes smash across sparse plains.
All this weather. All these politics. Mosquitos
still buzz through the house at bedtime.
Only the leaves behave, piling at the back gate,
large as plates and deep, profound reminders.
Someone gets ready for Christmas. Someone
finds the police at the door. Someone hands over
the sentence. Someone won’t make it
out of bed, curled in her flannel and wool,
still thinking of her bad father’s death, still
knowing the long cold is upon us, the dark
that collapses its net.
Laura Lee Washburn is the Director of Creative Writing at
Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and the author of This Good
Warm Place: 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition (March
Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook
Prize). Her poetry has appeared in such journals as Apple
Valley Review, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun,
Red Rock Review, and Valparaiso Review. Born in Virginia
Beach, Virginia, she has also lived and worked in Arizona and in
Missouri. She is married to writer Roland Sodowsky and is one
of the founders and the Co-President of the Board of SEK
Women Helping Women.
“Muddle,” what is this all about? I can see that the first two
couplets work in concert, showing us something sort of unique
or special that few people witness, snowflakes that may not
last in the early morning darkness. By the third couplet,
something more extreme and violent, comes in, November
tornadoes, and the individuals of the first two stanzas fade.
By the fourth couplet it feels as though an annoyed and
grumpy narrator has emerged. The poem’s mood has fully
shifted from its opening. The last couplet stanza is strangely
and suddenly the most personal, with a “back gate” where
sycamore leaves pile up as “Deep, profound reminders.”
I won’t ask “Of what?" as the answer seems to permeate the
But now we come to a final long stanza. The mannered
couplets are gone; the lines are less endstopped. We have a
visual cue of some change in the poem before we even read
the stanza. We have at least four “Someone”s in this stanza.
One is preparing for a winter holiday. Another is
unpleasantly surprised by the criminal justice system: are
they victim or criminal? I’m reminded of “Worried Man
Blues” with this sudden, mysterious, and almost anonymous
sentencing. Who is the criminal? Has a crime happened or
did we lie down to sleep and awake with shackles on our feet?
Then someone, finally, I think, is dying. We end with a more
fully rounded “someone,” a woman, who isn’t sure she’ll
move from her nest at least in part because she knows “the
long cold,” and “the dark that collapses its net.” The title,
at last, becomes clear.
◄ Previous page Apple Valley Review, Spring 2016 Next page ►
Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary
Volume 11, Number 1
Copyright © 2016
by Leah Browning, Editor.
All future rights to material
published in the Apple
Valley Review are retained
by the individual authors