by Laura Lee Washburn

My brother sends me a picture of a big car and a boat.
The car is brown or olive drab and isn’t really a car
but something not quite truck either.  The boat
is docked and dark and covered by a yellow tarp.

I have never seen these vehicles before.  Maybe the boat
was in his driveway once.  They make me think of bass
and ducks, of men squatting against trees—no,
they never could, camp stools, or their butts going numb
on the ground, Carhartt overalls, the flat squawk of a call.

He wants me to know something he has not said in words.
The land vehicle carries a tire on the roof, lights
set up to illuminate.  Think state police, safari, think
the woods suddenly lit, eyes shining, illegal traps, parties
on the beach.  He sent no words, but photos only
because I live so far away I’ve never hunted
and have no beach.  He knows I get sick on boats.

Maybe, I’m no fun and just don’t get it, can’t say
off road light bar, hi-lift jack, recovery straps,
winch, blind, or Remington 870 pump, Beretta 391,
outboard, cargo, tubular grill guard, body armor.
Probably this is it, he has no words that I can understand
or maybe he wants me to give him a call, check in
and talk about this and that and whatall, the dingus, the falderol.

by Laura Lee Washburn

i. The Silence Between Movements

The flying goldfinch warns another of your presence.
Though you know not from where, the siren begins its screed.

ii. The Suitcase and the Man

On the first trip he buys a hardware needle
curved and stern to stitch the upper seam
where its two sides are meant to meet.

iii. Memory

I do not think
our expectations match.

iv. The Introduction of Foreign Species

The lake is littered with black swan shit.
The starling pushes you from your nest.
Tennessee trees end in gray.

v. The Man and the Suitcase

Something else is wrong.
His wife keeps getting headaches.
He’s inserted a fat bolt
to correct the broken handle.

vi. House Guests

The little white cat presses her face
under the chair.  Doors thunk.
Television.  The dog runs about
wagging his tail.

vii. Suitcase, Man

They’ve broken the rubber stump
that helps the large case stand.
She imagines he’s too large
to be buried in this bag.  He keeps
the styrofoam cooler from his first marriage
like a pet.  How we waste
things with memories, how that function
for knowing where
the tree stands with fruit,
corrupts and defeats us:

by Laura Lee Washburn

I am thinking about the sacredness of prayer
even for the non-believer, about the scarcity
of Jews in New York law enforcement, about
federal police arresting the Sioux in songful prayer.

He rolls onto his back.  He wants me
to recognize his baleful eyes, his want.
He murmurs something about touch.
He wants the long fingers to part his fur.

I am considering selfishness.  The tree
is lit.  The day is foggy.  I know people
who manage narcissism beautifully, rolling
back over in bed.  Others huff the fog away.

The dog gives up for now, and turns
his circle into almost sleep.  His ears
alert for my attention.  We both agree
on water, the essential interconnected beauty.

He even loves the rain.  My tail, he thinks,
you must mention my tail.  Its flipped up,
fox-like majesty?  He hates the fox.  He
hates.  He worries.  He smells.  He hears.

Somewhere they sing Kaddish.  Someone
scratches a poem on a cell wall.  Zip ties
and forearms, pepper spray and hoses—
My dog wants to write about musky leaves,

the gray bug buzzing out of the catnip yesterday,
about finding the best musk
and rolling in it.  About touch.  About
the paws that scratch his bare and unprotected chest.


Laura Lee Washburn is the Director of Creative Writing at
Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas.  She is the author
This Good Warm Place: 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition,
published by March Street Press, and
Watching the Contortionists,
which won the Palanquin Chapbook Prize.  Washburn’s poetry has
appeared in journals such as
Cavalier Literary Couture, Carolina
, Ninth Letter, The Sun, Red Rock Review, and
Valparaiso Review.  She plays an active role in the activities of her
local NOW chapter and is one of the founders and the Co-President
of the Board of Southeast Kansas Women Helping Women.

On “Over Distance,” “Finger Exercises for the Morning,” and “My
Dog and I Write a Poem”:
These three poems represent a strange sampling of my work.  
The first, “Over Distance,” springs from imagining what my
brother wanted to communicate when he texted me a photo of a
boat and a car but didn’t include any words or captions.  The
poem’s speaker moves from an inarticulate attempt to describe
the vehicles in the poem, to speculation her brother wouldn’t
expect her to understand his words, to her defiant attempt to
show off her small knowledge of “his” language (winch and hi-
lift jack) before she speculates on another reason for the absence
of written words.  In the final lines, she uses a list of  placeholder
words, the sort of words those really “in the know” can get away
with, thereby offering reconciliation between brother and sister.  
Meanwhile, “Finger Exercises for the Morning” alludes to music
and starts with the idea of “silences” between sound.  The poem
offers only a small narrative in the midst of many forced silences
(introduction of sections and  subtitles for instance) until finally
the poem ends with a colon.  This colon at the end introduces a
major silence and incompleteness, which replicates, as it can, the
feeling of listening to musicians practice, especially the
incompleteness of finger exercises or passages repeated without
satisfying conclusion.  Finally, in “My Dog and I Write a Poem,”
the poet wants to write about mindful public topics, while the dog,
an apparent participant in the writing, has other priorities in mind.  
Eventually, one wonders if the poet and pup are more alike than
the poet might think, but I’m tempted to suggest that’s merely
wishful thinking.

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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 10, Number 2
(Fall 2015)

Copyright © 2015
by Leah Browning, Editor.  

All future rights to material
published in the
Valley Review
are retained
by the individual authors
and artists.