Poetry by Joanna Rose
A small basket of hazelnut shortbread cookies forms a still life here on a friend’s table, with the purple cup of green tea and the vase of dried hydrangea. The window is like a painting of trees dropping away on the hillside in the fog. If I don’t move or breathe too loudly, or think of my brother, who is committed to drinking a fifth of vodka a day for his few remaining days, or my boss, who is stunned by morphine so she can handle this latest round of chemo, or even my friend faraway in Las Cruces, who is breaking out in hives as we near the one-year anniversary of her granddaughter’s death—if I don’t invite them to sit at the table, I find instead the storm at the beach yesterday. The high wind and high tide filled the estuary, driving the river backward for hours, and then it all reversed, and the river swept down to the ocean with a silent cargo of rubble and wreckage from far upstream—limbs and logs, a whole fir tree dragging its root wad, an Adirondack chair, a corner of dock with railing. The sun came out and I went down to the storm-littered beach. I let the old dog off his leash. He has a bad knee and trotted gently, reverently peeing on pieces of driftwood and tangles of bull kelp. The wind was still high, riffling his fur, and he raised his silvered face to catch whatever scent there was. I laid that good day on the table by my tea, where my friend has placed a gold-rimmed plate of muffins. I breathe as softly as I can. I take one. Oh lord. It has blueberries.
Joanna Rose is the author of the award-winning novel Little Miss Strange. Her poetry, essays, and short fiction have appeared in Story Magazine, Oregon Humanities, High Desert Journal, VoiceCatcher, CALYX, and Bellingham Review, and other journals. Her essay, ”That Thing With Feathers,“ was cited as Notable in 2015 Best American Essays. Her new novel is A Small Crowd of Strangers by Forest Avenue Press.
She works with youth in Portland Public Schools and cohosts the long-running critique group Pinewood Table. When not at the beach, she lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and—at any given time—several dogs. You can visit her at www.joannarose.biz.