Two Poems

Poetry / Valerie Wetlaufer

:: The sound of woodsmoke ::

Tether. The shape of your lips,
an O to blow across the bottle.
I took your tail in my hands.
Shadow patterns, pine &
salt. The cedar smell of piñon.
I put the lime in my mouth.
I put the fakery.
Ribbon encircles your wrists.
I let my mouth rest there,
beside yours. I tasted breath
& blood.
Yesterday begat today.

:: I gave you my — ::

          carefully folded, swooned, postpartum

          posthaste —

          my letter to you, I gave —

          curious, you said uncanny you

          said the color of my eyes in this light

          is a different shade of green said

          you don’t eat meat but you wear

          leather outside the birds

          & inside the sun on the chair

          & my thighs spread &

          stick to the plastic &

          you said you loved

          it, & the ampersand & my swoon

          silently inside my skirt & the ochre

          on the building changes to umber

          in the light & the tree outside is

          bare & I am, my foot inside my slipper

          my toes curled behind & ow & yes

          & some days are sunny days & some

          days are


From the writer

:: Account ::

In 2010, I started writing a poem every day. My rule is that it doesn’t have to be good, or perfect or polished (revision will come later), but it has to be at least 10 lines. By making space for a daily writing habit, I found the quotidian creeping into my work. While I used to avoid writing about current events, and what I thought of as the mundanities of the everyday, both became presences in my poems, and it’s clear—at least to me—exactly where I was when I wrote about a certain shadow on a wall or an elk or birdsong or washing the dishes. Welcoming the domestic daily into my work did not, as I feared it might, narrow the focus of my poems, but, rather expanded it. I started reading Dorothy Wordsworth’s Grasmere and Alfoxden journals, and Bernadette Mayer’s Midwinter Day. In Midwinter Day, Mayer records her process of writing while living. In diaristic fashion, she details the minutiae of everyday life while she cooks, takes care of her children, goes to the grocery store and generally goes about her daily routine. At the same time that she is recording the playful babble of her daughters, she meditates on her literary precursors. Throughout the text, Mayer is concerned with female literary influence and ancestry, even cataloguing her lineage of female writers. Though she doesn’t include Dorothy Wordsworth in her list, the two writers are engaged in similar projects. I am trying to do something similar.

I used to sit down to write with a specific idea in mind, and I still do that sometimes, but writing every day has opened me up to a wider variety of subjects. I tend to write whatever is on my mind that day. When I have time, I like to compose poems in the mornings, so my dreams—their subjects and imagery—appear, and all are deeply rooted in location. These poems were written in my sunny Salt Lake City apartment, and that dry landscape shows up here in subtle ways. These poems are more associative and looser in form than I used to write. I give them space to play and just say whatever words are flowing through my mind. Of course these are revised from their initial daily rough draft version, but I see a freedom in them, like a woman who has at last unlaced her corset and can breathe easily again. Each of these poems is from my first book, which will be published in March 2014 by Sibling Rivalry Press. The book is mostly populated with poems that began as poems of the day.


Valerie Wetlaufer is a doula, poet, editor, and teacher. She edits Adrienne, a quarterly poetry journal of queer women. She has a PhD in Literature & Creative Writing from the University of Utah and an MFA from Florida State University. Currently, she is a professor at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Her first poetry collection, Mysterious Acts by My People, is forthcoming from Sibling Rivalry Press in March, 2014.