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.