Three Poems by Joe Wilkins

Joe Wilkins

Joe Wilkins

Joe Wilkins is the author of a memoir, The Mountain and the Fathers, winner of a 2014 GLCA New Writers Award, and three collections of poetry, including When We Were Birds, winner of the 2017 Oregon Book Award in Poetry. His debut novel, Fall Back Down When I Die, is now available from Little, Brown. Wilkins has published poems, essays, and stories in The Georgia Review, The Southern Review, Ecotone, The Sun, Orion, and Slate. He lives with his family in western Oregon, where he directs the creative writing program at Linfield College.

After the Farm Sale

fences sag    ditches dry    willows crowd the quiet

irrigation pump    wink their grief-blue

eyes    a brief rain muds the river    yarrow blooms

wild onion    prickly pear    lesser sunflower

for the absence of hens the skunk thins

for lack of lambbellies coyotes clack & slaver    somewhere

the economies of gadgets & neglect

machine down    somewhere a flatbed sits in a lot

a story rots    somewhere radio    wagejob    rage

even as the fields forget a boy divides dust    from dust

dikes with a plastic tractor    a field of dust

even as waterbirds dive & preen    even as they sing





I woke this morning in the old house,
which sat at the far, forsaken edge
of more or less everything, dry light
rivering through uncurtained windows.
Larks in the cottonwoods, sallow barncats
eyeing the larks. The millsaws down Queens Point
working at a high, blue whine. The dust of the road
might wait a dozen years to rise, the ditch's throat
never fill with ditchwater. I wish a wind to touch
the plains and valleys of me, all the old loves
to leave me now and never leave.




Where the River Breaks the Mountain's Back

Scrub trees pock the cliffs.
Tumblestones lean against the wind,
the emptiness.
Grass dries down to sunlight,
& glyphs of gone animals
scallop the hot dust—

starry nights
they step gracefully back
through their own absence. The sky
in any weather is a long time coming,
like gladness. This is a map. Love,
I leave it here for you.