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Distinguished Poems

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Jill Charles & r & "The street tree in the poem," says Jill Charles, "is one of five flame maples I helped plant in 2003 with my coworkers at Capitol Hill Housing, a Seattle nonprofit." Charles grew up in Spokane and writes for Tablet, an arts and culture magazine based in Seattle and Portland. She has a B.A. in English and Creative Writing from Seattle University.





The Street Tree & r & I wonder if the street tree & r & Dreams of living. & r & Does it hate its patch of earth & r & Ringed with cigarette butts and beer cans? & r & Does the tree despise the metal grate & r & That anchors it in the sidewalk?





Its maple leaves stretch out & r & Green shade in the summer & r & Canada red in the autumn.





Does this flame maple dream & r & Of woods of alder and larch? & r & Does its xylem remember songs & r & Of killdeer and cedar waxwings? & r & Would the tree rather grow among ferns, & r & Salmonberries and trilliums like happy ghosts?





I dream of the Black Forest and Appalachian Trail & r & Vermont hills red with sugar maple & r & And the cold pine breath of the Tongass. & r & Why did I come to this city? & r & Why did I plant this tree?





You say it is hopeless here & r & Our country is a prison & r & You will roll away like a tumbleweed & r & And kiss America goodbye.





But I know green leaves are the antidote & r & I will stand here & r & Stretching my ordinary limbs & r & To shade some tired face.





I asked my mother once & r & Why she had children. & r & She said to me, & r & "Someone has to save the world."





Laurie Klein & r & Laurie Klein, 54, has written narrative and lyric poems for eight years, studies with area writers and visiting poets whenever possible, and has an award-winning chapbook, Bodies of Water, Bodies of Flesh. Her entry reflects her struggle with her uncle's suicide.





A Tree Shaded the Room Where He Told Her & r & The willow outside had seemed to kneel. & r & Watching the storm with her father, the girl & r & scalded her mouth on cocoa. He didn't & r & notice. He told her the latest. She & r & babied her tongue, its patchy emery & r & motionless, raw. Even at 10, she perceived





pivotal moments via their settings, the way & r & they were lit -- take the room that day: & r & blue walls revealed in spasms, lightning & r & riding pillion with thunder, her father's words & r & like migraines she still gets, neon wheels & r & and flares. Into her imagination





he fleshed out a tree at dawn, her uncle, & r & hanging. She might have been celluloid, almost & r & opaque, a reel of film curled in its can. Later, & r & images would develop, floating face up, & r & ghosting in dark rooms, a film noir & r & spliced over time. To this day she dislikes





willows, which neither weep nor shade & r & the room where she thinks of her father today, & r & and Uncle Dunkle -- men who hoarded & r & their separate wars, and likely replayed scenes & r & only with comrades who wouldn't ask & r & whom they'd killed, or how, which made them feel





safe. She knows horror's fumes, stealthy & r & as fixatives, escape their containers. Back then, & r & hearing her father's news made her feel & r & chosen. Later, a squall felled her willow, & r & leaving the room exposed. Her father & r & carted away its trunk, left a rotting stump.





Michael Steele & r & Michael Steele is an MFA candidate in the creative writing program at Eastern Washington University, where he has worked as poetry editor of Willow Springs.





Cornus florida & r & In the front yard the dogwood draws the line & r & between beauty and purpose while its bracts & r & maintain a cardinal array. Such deception & r & in thinking these appendages petals.





Light filters through foliage, & r & green on the backs of my hands & r & as I inspect the true flower, & r & yellow-green at the center of each blossom.





I move my fingers over bract and flower then back, & r & pollen sticking to skin. A breeze swims through & r & the branches and I tremble. & r & Its leaves quake and shimmer in early summer





but the bracts do not fall. With patience & r & the fruit comes as a shy voice & r & in autumnal air, but for now a quiet flower & r & absorbs light and touch.





For N.L.





Jack Leininger & r & Leininger grew up on a ranch in central Montana. "The trees and images in this poem are from an old ranch house where I grew up, and from an abandoned homestead" near Lewistown, he says. Leininger, a juvenile probation officer in Spokane, has been writing poetry for 15 years.





Cottonwood & r & Collapsed walls & r & Of the 1915 farmhouse & r & Lie in a heap, & r & A bone yard of broken dreams. & r & Clumps of crested wheatgrass & r & And wild asparagus & r & Cover & r & The memory of a garden.





Three cottonwood trees & r & Two dead & r & Stand & r & A shadow's length & r & From the crumbled foundation.





One barely alive & r & (A single branch has leaves) & r & Beckons: & r & Sit beneath my shade; & r & It's not too late & r & To dream & r & Again.

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