Read guest editor Mary Szybist's introduction.


Country Western

When you tell me you’re touring and thinking
of me, I’m not flattered. And as for the thinking,
I can’t speak to that. I’d like to drive for days,
though it wouldn’t be to find you—
that’s just me thinking
of the movies. My throat closes in
on itself all the time now,
but I’m afraid that’s just
a metaphor. I’m afraid everything’s
a metaphor. I wish
you had chosen
me earlier. I don’t want to be
what you’ll find me.



Variation of Petrarch 35

Alone and in my head I map out empty fields,
divide and measure the plots with caution,
ready to run at the first hint of human life,
be it footprint or carcass, twig snap or scream,

for I have no way to hide myself. I know
no shield, no veil that can obscure me
from all the looking, looking, looking.
What can I do? Even from here you

see the damage, smell the rot.
I’d take any barren landscape,
be it sand, cinders, sewage
or oil, anything without you,

but all I get is Love, Love, Love—
the mouth open and the voice crawling out.



Variation of Petrarch 57

Luck barely shows, hope equivocates,
and desire climbs. It’s painful, this waiting,
and after, its loss an emptiness, gone
with the speed of an animal.

Snow is burnt black, oceans are sheets of glass
and the fish are all gasping in high fields of grass.
The sun is flattened and irretrievable
between the mouth of the Missouri and Tigris.

The world is all of this and I’m without
love or lady. Lady, learn another use for me—
you who plot my undoing, it’s done.

If your sugar reaches my mouth it’s bitter
by its arrival and nothing else
from you, my tigress, ever comes.



If I Should Be the Ordinary Animal

I know it seems ungrateful,
             and I am.
             I didn’t ask to come here
to walk to a lake and see nothing but glass
and below that glass.

17th: I lay down in the morning
25th: rain all day

seeds of worry are my daughters,
we dine together now

             I’m sheltered and observed.

             I find myself looking at the trees outside,
sometimes yew, sometimes ash,

6th: walked I know not.
8th: walked.
9th: walked.

             I begin to despise the house
             built around me,
             a cake on the table, the candles burning without
melting. So much color

and even now
my heart shines brilliant.

16th: walked in the morning
         wind all day

I could dazzle so many—

I could laugh you away and still not be alone
I could laugh you away

26th: nothing green but the brambles

I’m no worse
for going
             myself a finger piercing
             glass, metalblue and notched

I used to regret so much
about you a silvery line
                          threaded bow

31st: the air and the lake were still
2nd: When pleasant thoughts etc,
             the sky closed in, and the ground white

glassed pictures all down
a long hall and at the end I will
turn and there will be no one

             as if it’s more than a dream, it’s not.

3rd: two or three different kinds of birds sang
4th: I could hardly drag myself away I grew so sad

without burden or pursuit
myself and you
changed to some other common thing

             I sit now, hours without noticing
             of course I could

12th: long time to watch the hurrying waves
                          sound of the dashing waves
26th: the mind afraid to calculate its bounds

             As in, What do you expect from life?
It was so hot
I would spend all day in the bathtub crying.

Well, I didn’t know anything and I was alone.

             the landscape mildly interesting
             the sea, spotted with white,

                                                    I feel
a terrible pale moment, and then fine.


Crystal Willer was born in Colorado and raised in Oregon and Idaho. Her poetry has been published in Poor Claudia and is forthcoming in Weekday. She is currently the third year fellow in poetry at Washington University in St. Louis.