Tag Archives | Pat West

Nocturne With Bonfires and Volcanoes by Pat West

We celebrate our twenty-year class reunion,
notes vibrate through the atmosphere

full of frenzy like Debussy’s two movements:
Festivals and Sirens. Whirling around the bonfire

raising dust in the clearing behind the Grange Hall.
The band, a standup rock-and-crazy-roll group

with legs skinny as bed slats,
wail their tune of love lost and found and lost again.

The same story we heard back in high school
when we swayed to “Only the Lonely”

in the basement. Roy Orbison,
master of the romantic apocalypse

everyone dreaded.

A supersonic boom rattles windows

as Mount St. Helens blows out sideways.
The forest flattened

by a force equivalent to five hundred
Hiroshimas.

Ash billows from the new crater,
climbing miles into the sky. Blue lightning

flashes in the cloud. Downwind, for hundreds of miles,
day turns to night. Roads and airports close.

Ash falls like heavy snow. Downstream, rivers choke
with mud, trees and ice blocks.

Harry Truman, David Johnston and fifty-five others
lost under smoldering rubble.

About the Author: Pat West

Pat Phillips West lives in Olympia, WA. A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, her work has appeared in Haunted Waters Press, Persimmon Tree, VoiceCatcher, San Pedro River Review, Slipstream, Gold Man Review and elsewhere.

Summer at Mt. Tamalpais by Pat West

The redwoods whoosh
whispering secrets
of the ancients.
The giant sequoias hoot
and grunt like the deep bass

of a tuba. Sunflowers
and dahlias, framed by my window,
topple under the weight
of giant blooms.

Yellow-striped beefstake tomatoes split
with ripeness. Green zucchini, sweet corn
and poblano peppers demand,
Pick me, pick me.
August sun scorches, the earth cracks,
there is no choice
but to endure. Life’s been this way
since dogs could talk.
And everything is thirsty.

Deer come close in the early hours
and coyotes yap at sunset.
Cobwebs shimmer between branches.
Honey bees gossip
with fairies in the garden.

About the Author: Pat West

PatWestBio

Pat Phillips West lives in Olympia, WA. A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, her work has appeared in Haunted Waters Press, Persimmon Tree, VoiceCatcher, San Pedro River Review, Slipstream, Gold Man Review and elsewhere.

I Play Hooky from Work on Wednesday and Take a Road Trip by Pat West

Sixty-five miles west of Chicago,
I turn south on Route 23.
Here the landscape’s
dotted with white two-story farmhouses,
red barns, and gravel roads that crisscross.
Rows and rows of corn whispering
all the way to Iowa.

So this is rural Illinois on an August
afternoon. Hollyhocks hunch over
from the weight of purple and bright pink
blossoms, wide front porches with swings
and rocking chairs welcome farm folk
after chores.

Out here it’s all so flat,
as if the summer sky’s come down
and pressed this land level with the horizon.
Riding alone, I take in the mix
of freshly turned soil, pollen-thick air
and the long upward-winding curve
of a train whistle.

A lanky man walks down the driveway
to check the mailbox,
all the time keeping an eye on the road,
like he’s watching for someone to wave to.

I feel like stopping the car
right in the middle of the road.
Instead, I raise my hand palm up
and leave it out
gliding over rooftops and fields.

About the Author: Pat West

PatWestBio

Pat Phillips West lives in Olympia, WA. A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, her work has appeared in Haunted Waters Press, Persimmon Tree, VoiceCatcher, San Pedro River Review, Slipstream, Gold Man Review and elsewhere.

After a Relentless Winter by Pat West

you come with a slow strut
and soft buckle
of your body against mine.

Winter’s low, weak light
and even less warmth, over. Now
the sun rises high and strong,

bringing that particular alchemy
of air and earth. The rich pungent smell
of wetness. The earthy musk of damp dirt

after many months,
I open the window
and let you climb in.

I inhale long and deep, remove my apron
like someone drugged
and stumble out the back door

straight into your tenderness,
and the return
of what was absent: crocuses, daffodils

and tulips. Each a splash of color
on the canvas of nature.
A passion stirs within me,

as I sprawl under a pink canopy
of cherry blossoms giddy
in the arms of spring.

About the Author: Pat West

PatWestBio

Pat Phillips West lives in Olympia, WA. A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, her work has appeared in Haunted Waters Press, Persimmon Tree, VoiceCatcher, San Pedro River Review, Slipstream, Gold Man Review and elsewhere.

If You Step on Ants by Pat West

it will rain comes to mind
on my walk this morning.
Such odd things people believe.
Knocking on wood to avoid
tempting fate. Saying bless you
when someone sneezes
because the heart comes close to stopping.

They seek truth in Tarot cards
or expect answers from shamans
about good and evil spirits.

Some are certain guardian angels
protect them, others think life insurance
will cover everything.

Myself, I’ll marry in black
rather than white, break a mirror
on purpose, give a witch a lock of my hair,
lap up dragon’s blood.
I point at the rainbow and shout, So What!

About the Author: Pat West

PatWestBio

Pat Phillips West lives in Olympia, WA. A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, her work has appeared in Haunted Waters Press, Persimmon Tree, VoiceCatcher, San Pedro River Review, Slipstream, Gold Man Review and elsewhere.

Obsessions, Compulsions and Conversations with Cats by Pat West

Dickens slept facing north. He’d even rearrange furniture in hotel rooms.
The man swore by baked apples and their ability to prevent seasickness.
Favorite recipe: apples soaked in a sherry bath, filled with apricot marmalade
and drizzled with sherry syrup. He thought pears a lesser fruit.

John Cheever wearing his only suit, would take the elevator
to a maid’s room in the basement of his apartment building,
strip to his boxers and scribble short stories. At eleven
he’d have a secret slug of whiskey, at noon two martinis
and a Turkey Monte Cristo sandwich before afternoon gin and tonics.

William Faulkner typed with his toes. Stories about his drinking
might make one think he just poured bourbon into a bowl
and never ate. Not so, the man loved salmon croquettes,
made right from the recipe on the back of the salmon tin.

Eudora Welty straight pinned her pages together,
when they grew too long for the room
she put them on the table, a patchwork quilt
you could read in any direction. Her writing
filled with stuffed eggs, seafood
gumbo, beaten biscuits and Vicksburg Potato Salad,
richest food in Southern literature.

Capote wrote horizontal on a couch, cigarette and coffee
handy. Editing took place in the afternoon and his drinks
went from coffee to mint tea to sherry to martinis.
Evenings he ate Italian Summer Pudding: creamy chocolate
mascarpone and macerated raspberries, with layers
of coffee-and rum-soaked ladyfingers.

While living in Key West, Ernest Hemingway worked
in a pair of oversized loafers, typewriter chest-high
and only discussed the day’s writing
with his six-toed cats. He thought regular-toed cats
poor listeners. His recipe, Pan-Fried Mountain Trout,
remains a secret. He stopped each day’s work

About the Author: Pat West

PatWestBio

Pat Phillips West lives in Olympia, WA. A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, her work has appeared in Haunted Waters Press, Persimmon Tree, VoiceCatcher, San Pedro River Review, Slipstream, Gold Man Review and elsewhere.

Listen by Pat West

My parents died
when I was a baby.
Family and friends passed me around.
Nine cities in six years.
Never stayed in one place
long enough to sign a lease.
You want to know more?
Before my grams died,
she told me when an intruder
appears in my dreams, it’s an omen
to move. First time, in San Francisco
I missed the signal. Next day,
an earthquake caused a fifty foot section
of the Oakland Bay Bridge to collapse
right behind my car. In Miami,
after Andrew blasted through my apartment,
I paid attention. I’m not making this up.
Thought about Toledo, but nothing happens
in that town, so I headed north
to Boston just in time for Fleet Week,
and a long string of dull men
with tattoos of serpents and dragons.
This time I didn’t wait for an intruder,
tossed a coin between here and Portland,
Seattle won. Grams also said,
when I came close to home
she’d send me a sign. Few days later,
I heard her whisper, Stay a while,
find a man to yawn with in the morning.
Then you saunter into my life.
You think I’m crazy. Here’s crazy.
When you look at me, I’m an exotic belly dancer.
When you touch me, I hear wolves.
When you kiss me, I’m one of them.

About the Author: Pat West

PatWestBio

Pat Phillips West lives in Olympia, WA. A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, her work has appeared in Haunted Waters Press, Persimmon Tree, VoiceCatcher, San Pedro River Review, Slipstream, Gold Man Review and elsewhere.

The Smell and Taste of Things Remain Poised a Long Time by Pat West

After a line by Marcel Proust

Winters my mother stirred her rustic root vegetable stew
in a kitchen dizzy with steam. The aroma of rosemary
and turmeric saturating the entire house.

That scent of sawdust circled my grandfather.
A man who used lathe, grinder, chisel, plane
and rip saw. A man with hands rough as a rasp.

A summer evening in Kentucky
visiting my sister. Glasses of Shanghai silk
merlot, savoring black cherry, currant, cedar
and green olive, still so clear on my tongue.

Damp air, heavy with seawater,
sunlight cathedraling through a torn place in the clouds.
My husband and I on the north cusp of Pike Place Market,
where we shared Etta’s Dungeness crab cakes
with tomatillo cocktail sauce, tangy yet sweet.

The smell of fresh-cut grass that June evening
we spread a blanket in the backyard,
under a sky whose wide-apart edges
would spend all night coming together.

On mornings when my muscles harbor a rusty ache,
my husband’s old, blue sweatshirt feels like a hug.
Even though he’s been gone twenty-five years,
and it’s been washed hundreds of times,
I inhale his cologne, fresh, spicy oak moss.

About the Author: Pat West

PatWestBio

Pat Phillips West lives in Olympia, WA. A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, her work has appeared in Haunted Waters Press, Persimmon Tree, VoiceCatcher, San Pedro River Review, Slipstream, Gold Man Review and elsewhere.

Something About the Sound of Wind and Water by Pat West

A wedge of geese circles overhead,
honking as if asking for directions.

There’s a nearby creek I hear
but can’t see, and the solitary cries

of jays, and the low Coke-bottle whistle
of wind through tall trees.

At the top of the hill, there’s a bench
at what feels like

the edge of the world. A place
where earth speaks to sky.

I find it difficult to understand
but here the unfilled-in parts of me

become whole. In this spot,
I am not afraid

of love or fire or fault lines.
Nowhere else do I find

it possible to imagine
my own nonexistence

and feel okay.
Here I sit

empty-handed, taking
pleasure in the long, deep trough of silence

where the ghosts of those I love
linger on my tongue.

About the Author: Pat West

PatWestBio

Pat Phillips West lives in Olympia, WA. A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, her work has appeared in Haunted Waters Press, Persimmon Tree, VoiceCatcher, San Pedro River Review, Slipstream, Gold Man Review and elsewhere.

Fleeting by Pat West

swinghigh1

My sister leans against the archway
in my bedroom. Beautiful
even with the shunt
bulging at her left temple
like a goose egg. Her green eyes
stunning over an emerald silk
blouse. I tell her I love her
and treasure how she taught me to ride
a two wheeler, find my balance,
push past the wobbles. And to always
hold on tight to the ropes or chains,
to be in charge of making the swing go,
legs back, legs out, reach for the sky.
And later, how to kiss.
I laugh, though I don’t know why, she laughs
too. We always did that. She smiles
and disappears before I can tell her
my daughter turned out more like her than me.
More Oscar Madison than Felix Unger,
more self confident than insecure
and more Hemingway fan than Fitzgerald.

About the Author: Pat West

PatWestBio

Pat Phillips West lives in Olympia, WA.  A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, her work has appeared in Haunted Waters Press, Persimmon Tree, VoiceCatcher, San Pedro River Review, Slipstream, Gold Man Review and elsewhere.

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