Laura Lee Washburn: "Cheyenne Valley, Autumn"



            in which the poet ends up echoing Roethke and can find no other way out



Broom weed blooms yellow clusters

while buffalo grass fades to sage and gray.


We find a tarantula barely

different from its background

of red-orange earth.  It neither shrinks

nor leaps. 

                    Under the dust-red

gunny sacks dried over the fence

by the old gray barn, large brown bats—

large, a genus, not describer—huddle

for daytime sleep with mud dauber

nests, handy feed in old feed sacks.


I name the bug on the scrap iron gate

horned armory beetle for his color

and angular exoskeleton.  A yucca

spikes up with angled precision.


The prickly pear betrays black rot.

Tiny purples prick the landscape.


Look closely, keep your head down.

Watch the green reeds press up

at the Miracle Pond while cockle-burrs

catch on your laces.  Snakes

have dropped before you into this water.

Snapping turtle heads periscope

from its surface.  The deer track,

coyote howl, woodpeckers’ calling lunacy

all tell us to circle into our camp


where in sun the wasps’ last frenetic

flights hum at rolled awnings, where

you can huddle knowing no matter

what you see or don’t, you’re not alone

in this, but surrounded.  Small breaths

are breathing from our borrowed earth.



Laura Lee Washburn is the Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University, an editorial board member of the Woodley Memorial Press, and the author of This Good Warm Place (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize).  Her poetry has appeared in such journals as Carolina Quarterly, Quarterly West, The Sun, The Journal, and Clackamas Review.