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About this poet

Joe Wilkins received his MFA in creative writing from the University of Idaho. He is the author of the poetry collections When We Were Birds (University of Arkansas Press, 2016), Notes from the Journey Westward (White Pine Press, 2012), and Killing the Murnion Dogs (Black Lawrence Press, 2011). He is the director of creative writing at Linfield College and lives in Oregon.

Then I Packed You Up the Ridge Like a Brother on My Back

In the blue dark I followed the ridge
toward the pines.

In a bowl of sage and dry grass
soft as the throat-hairs

of something small,
I lay down.

The sun was a long time coming,
the earth bloodless at my belly.

I waited and watched the river.
I was very still. You know how it is—

the stars closing their bright mouths,
the dew a gift on your lips.    

You did not see me,
or my rifle,

blue as the dark. I saw you
step from the willows,

give your nose to the black water.
And you were beautiful. There is so much

blood in a thing—
yours welled up from the clean hole

I made in your heart and steamed
on the river stones,

and some washed down into the river,
where it swirled a moment,

and became the breath of fish.

Copyright © 2012 Joe Wilkins. “Then I Packed You Up the Ridge Like a Brother on My Back” was published in Notes from the Journey Westward (White Pine Press, 2012). Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2012 Joe Wilkins. “Then I Packed You Up the Ridge Like a Brother on My Back” was published in Notes from the Journey Westward (White Pine Press, 2012). Used with permission of the author.

Joe Wilkins

Joe Wilkins

Joe Wilkins received his MFA in creative writing from the University of Idaho. He is the author of the poetry collections When We Were Birds (University of Arkansas Press, 2016), Notes from the Journey Westward (White Pine Press, 2012), and Killing the Murnion Dogs (Black Lawrence Press, 2011). He is the director of creative writing at Linfield College and lives in Oregon.

by this poet

poem

When we were birds,
we veered & wheeled, we flapped & looped—

it's true, we flew. When we were birds,
we dined on tiny silver fish
& the watery hearts
of flowers. When we were birds

we sistered the dragonfly,
brothered the night-wise bat,

& sometimes when

poem
Old friend,
stuck in that small town,
we tried every way we could
to kill ourselves. 
 
That night down on the river,
that night I lost you?
 
That was a stupid night.
 
I think about it all the time.
 
poem
Old friend,
are we there yet? 

You sat with me once,
outside a dirty burger joint,
a hard light at the windows.

It was just about
the ass crack of the afternoon,

mountains in the distance,

& I’d played a trick on you,
or you’d played a trick on me,

& the highway
was a home to comings & goings,