Daybreak, Spokane, September 2001

They’re tearing down the Olympia Beer sign
from atop the Empire Hotel.

The geese wing south again,

above the char color of the city,
through the still dark house of the sky.

Last week a woman threw herself in the river.

     * * *

I dream winter—wind leaning hard
down the mountains, blown snow

and ice—reading James Wright
for the first time.

How sad and lovely,

because in his poems everything and everyone
was always dying,

yet looking up from the page
I had never before wanted so wholly to live.

     * * *

Across the black river, I watch

bricks fall from the hotel without sound,
flowers of smoke blossom above the coal stacks,

and now the first sun break shivers me
in my dew-soaked shoes.

It is time to grieve, to believe in the world again.

Joe Wilkins was born and raised north of the Bull Mountains on the Big Dry of eastern Montana. He has since worked as a wine chemist in Washington state, studied theater in London, and taught high school math in the Mississippi Delta. He now directs the creative writing program at Waldorf College, and his work appears in the Georgia Review, the Southern Review, the Mid-American Review, Blackbird, Orion, and Slate, among other magazines and literary journals. (

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761