High Desert Arizona
Like an old-timer
easy with hard luck
will roll up pantleg
to show what
a snapped cable
or a black widow
the land here
bares its stories
about where wind
makes its rounds
has taught ridgeline
junipers to twist;
about where water goes
and by fancy,
where water went
where a scrub oak
wanted so bad
it lay down on
its side and
to have it.
From Southern Poetry Review, Poets of the West and West Coast, 51:2, 2014
Keeping Even, Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2011
Southern Poetry Review, 47:2, 2010
This special edition of Southern Poetry Review can be found at http://www.southernpoetryreview.org/
ABOUT KEEPING EVEN: A POETRY COLLECTION BY POETRY/CREATIVE NONFICTION EDITOR, SHEILA SANDERSON
Whether the scene happens to be the wildebeest migration trail through the Serengeti, or a pond in Kentucky “growing every minute greener,” or a stand of saguaro in the low desert of Arizona, the poems in Sheila Sanderson’s Keeping Even convey a strong sense of place. Grounded “on an actual, factual, earth,” the poems in Keeping Even call attention to the various balancing acts that living requires, to the desire to define and locate the center of gravity.–Stephen F. Austin State University Press
Sanderson understands that you can’t get to the metaphysical without first experiencing and enduring the physical. She straddles the known and unknown planes of existence buoyed by a voice that’s at once ironic and sincere, in a word, genuine. Sanderson swirls her personal myth with Biblical myth to reveal the essential, but seldom revealed, truth that they’re one and the same. Muezzins and hobos exist side-by-side in Sanderson’s world . . . . Wherever we are, and whoever we’re with, she reminds us-no, convinces us-that “the closing argument is faith.” –Alexander Long, author of Light Here, Light There and Still Life.
Sheila Sanderson writes a mature and committed poetry–a poetry that cuts to the bone, a poetry committed to cherishing the elemental wonders surrounding her life. Sanderson pays close attention to nature and her appreciation is specific, fresh, and hard-won, for Sanderson is a poet who, through hands-on observation, realizes the ironies and inequities of experience. And so her vision is subtle, wry, and realistic. The experience of a Sanderson poem is always essential. Her voice is uniquely her own, and a reader will hear Biblical overlays at the edges, in her poetry’s fierce music, in its gravity and concern. Sanderson commands a consistent and sophisticated syntax, and her voice, her style, support and include the contradictions of hope–which is where her poems brilliantly lead.–Christopher Buckley, author of Varieties of Religious Experience, Rolling the Bones, Modern History, Star Apocrypha and others.
Keeping Even is a brilliant book. Written in a wondrous blend of the vernacular and the philosophical, the poems . . .glow with radiance and wit . . . . Sanderson beautifully meditates on the epiphanies of travel, the knotty loyalties of family and home, the bewilderment of grief, and the complex gratitude for being “temporarily employed by the species.”–K. L. Cook, author of Love Songs for the Quarantined and Last Call
Keeping Even is available at Stephen F. Austin University Press, Texas A & M Consortium Catalog, and Amazon.com. It is also available locally at the Prescott College and Peregrine Bookstores.
SHEILA SANDERSON lives in the high desert mountains of Prescott, Arizona and teaches writing and literature in the Arts & Letters Program at Prescott College. She serves as poetry and creative nonfiction editor for Alligator Juniper. Her work has also appeared in journals such as Alaska Quarterly Review, Crazyhorse, Miramar, Southern Poetry Review, and Spillway.
It is such a pleasure to have our state and our authors recognized. Please tell us below what you love most about Arizona or the Southwest!
No, don’t sleep! I said, they come for me:
Four men on horses of treachery!
They spin the wind high and push the sea down low.
You’re awake, He said, at last;
Have you read those voices of the past?
Your last, I said, those words;
Listed on pages and protected by sages…
Who told me those travels were not to be heard?
Don’t fear, he said, there’s a fix;
They tell me it hangs on the crucifix.
Reminder: Please leave your first-draft poetry in comments for a chance to be featured on our blog!
a couple of owls have taken up residence among the woods around my house
a call and response unwavering
communicating position among the darknesses
an owl moon shines down on all the consumable particles
the Arizona forest hums
i drag alone on my cigarette….. illumination
crickets sing in the undertones of melancholy
i hear an organ in the distance
what sounds like a gunshot at a neighboring house
my imagination rides
i think about the Velveteer and her curls
i remember curves of orbit
gallant grasps and sheets of loyalties patterns
in eyes of turquoise …goddess
envelopes cut up in ribbons
marquees of neon perfume emitted
the phone signals a dying battery
the brakes have departed
ghost coasting down the cliffs of insanity
carrying a trunk load of locked up musical effigies
things are said in passing with no real meaning
the lion hangs around my house now
bony, with hair falling out
anyone else with lions
are showing up with missing limbs.
locked teeth and white knuckles
Grand Pre is hanging around
with a sombrero and an eye patch on his face,
the shadow of every eclipse
iron tongues branded the eyes of Evangeline
i hear the whispers of pity aimed at me over the party line
“You don’t have to say that!’ i tell them
the moons shadow follows me around like a rain cloud
the raven outside my window has gathered his cronies
Sly Simeon the politician slides in the door and holds up Victor,
tells me that hanging out with hims gonna get me killed
tells me the worlds on its side and its head
tells me i need to watch more television
that the facts lay on the worlds wide web and not in the heart
just then the lion gets up off the rug and bowls him over
packs him up and carries him off
the ravens turn their attention and shriek with laughter
hit the scene and fly behind lion.
i watch from the living room and put the revolvers back on the bookshelf
the chaos in the alley woke the sun
i thought about looking for my trumpet
the coca cola factory underneath my apartment is injecting the dew with synthetic colloidal happinesses
and the “I VOTED FOR THE WINNER” sign on my lawn has gone missing
Just then William Randolph crashed through my window
got up, grabbed the fire stoker and and said
“there’s a war to win down in Cuba”
and with that grabbed the keys to my lawn mower and took off
i went to the front door to get a glass of milk
found a sperm bank flyer rubber banded on my doorknob instead
went to raise the flag outside
found a barrel of monkeys hanging on the line
i saw my neighbor standing across the street on his lawn laughing
“what’s the matter? can’t take a joke?” he said
and then walked in to go set fire to his house with Freud
I walked back inside and grabbed the waffle maker
threw it in my suitcase and headed off to work
it was a normal day
-Sunshine Davis with William Teller
A dry, hard lump, the shriveled foreskin
corn husk embalms
the white masa and a brown stain of cooked pork.
Eyes first, she offers me the tamal.
When I lift it from her grasp, her split palm opens
like dry-lipped mudcracks in Arizona in June.
The fissure on her hand crosses the life line, the love line, x-ing them out.
My pocket shimmies with coins and they fill her craters.
Here I am, hopping buses across the clay-rich countryside,
a region of Mexico that quenched Spain’s gold throat nearly five hundred years ago,
and to take a bus this woman, who could be
my great grandmother, who could be dead by now,
must steal her way onto the bus, slipping off ten minutes into the ride,
in the back pocket of a family.
It’s not about the wad of week-old tamal
or about the fact that it costs the same as the bus ride,
and that, this time, she pays it up—clinks into the driver’s neat stacks of change,
still warm from my pocket—
but feeling the gold marrow of my body
blushes my neck and my face contorts with…
And I don’t want to have it, to be burdened with gold teeth,
but now that I am, I must eat wedged tamales until I die of thirst.
I sit in my bus seat, knees pulled tight to my chest,
hugging all the pieces of myself, terrorized by their departures from each other,
by growth, by intellect, by simple observations.
As the magazine does its thing at the printers, Alligator Juniper staff have decided to delight in the April celebration of NaPoWriMo or National Poetry Writing Month.
Yes, we know it’s already day three of April. This is not an excuse, but we’ve seriously been working night and day to format and bring to you—our writing family, fans, and loyal subscribers—the 18th issue of the magazine! So exciting, but we all need to just take a breather, sit back, read, and write poetry as we wait it’s arrival. To calm the nerves, you know.
On a rotating basis, the AJ office staff will be posting our own raw, uncooked, unrevised poetry. These are first drafts, y’all; that’s what it’s all about! We encourage all writers, no matter what your genre preferences, to give this NaPoWriMo a go. We would also like to invite our readers to post original poems in the comments. We will feature select poems along with our own throughout the month.
Keep connected: follow our blog and we’ll exchange the favor. Let’s generate some drafts for the National Writing Contest next fall…or just play, because spring, especially, is conducive to that!
Love, AJ Staff