Joan Colby, Winter 2017



Memory saves us
From the sins of history.
Another story of magical lamps.

It is not truth. It is erratic.
Manipulated the way a chiropractor shifts
A disk or implanted like the heart of a suicide.

There are some afflicted
With perpetual memory. Their heads flooded
Like the Yangtze, drowning in images.

Those with poor recall have memories
Chained to the mast like Odysseus
While the sirens taunt the tip of the tongue.

Here is the ward of those who rock wordless
Or scream obscenities, their brains wattled
Like the bird-nests of swallows.

The old storyteller begins the yarn
And the children gather
As the tales change and inflate year after year.

A sludge of memory
Dislocates as a hillside in Wales
Buries the struggling town.






Over the sage, the pronghorn scrawls

Its cursive signature.Fleeing or simply enjoying

The bounce the way speculators rejoice in the

Market’s surge. Or Nijinsky stalled in pure air

Like a hummingbird, energy vibrating

In the magic of propulsion. Listen, there’s a need

To add something extra. The day the Gregorian

Calendar demanded. In Greece, an omen

Of failed marriage while Sadie Hawkins ladies

Composed their proposals. The way a mountain lion

Sails from a high rock to clutch

The sorrel mare’s withers as if it could be love

Instead of hunger. The way a poem risks

Misunderstanding, its oblique similes,

Its take-a-dares, its dream.







The sun was sinking

As we entered Little Thompson Canyon

Casting the narrow wedge

Into a bar of molten gold,

Our lives transmuted suddenly

To the sort of rapture

We disavow, but still remember.


Early October.

We enter the narrow road

To Copper Harbor at the apex

Of the Kewanee peninsula.

The maples burn gold

In a kiln of shadow.

Once again,

This transformation.


Once again,

The perfect timing.






Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review,etc. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards, an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She has published 16 books including “Selected Poems” from FutureCycle Press which received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize and “Ribcage” from Glass Lyre Press which has been awarded the 2015 Kithara Book Prize. She has two books forthcoming in 2016 and 2017. One of her poems is among the winners of the 2016 Atlantic Review International Poetry Contest. Colby is also a senior editor of FutureCycle Press and an associate editor of Kentucky Review.

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