W.F. Lantry’s poetry collections are The Structure of Desire (Little Red Tree 2012), winner of a 2013 Nautilus Award in Poetry, The Language of Birds (Finishing Line 2011), and a forthcoming collection The Book of Maps. A native of San Diego, he received his Maîtrise from L’Université de Nice, M.A. from Boston University, and PhD in Creative Writing from University of Houston. Honors include the National Hackney Literary Award in Poetry, CutBank Patricia Goedicke Prize, Crucible Editors’ Poetry Prize, Lindberg Foundation International Poetry for Peace Prize (Israel), and the Potomac Review and Old Red Kimono LaNelle Daniel Prizes. His work has appeared in Asian Cha, Gulf Coast and Valparaiso Poetry Reveiw. He currently works in Washington, DC and is an associate fiction editor at JMWW.
Brother, I am the incense and the smoke,
the burning flame, the wick, the candlewax.
I am the leaf, detached, blown on the breeze
above these mountain ridges where the sun
warms everything at once: the redbark trees,
the purple fruit of vines and the blue flax
from which skilled hands make robes: we wear the earth,
unknowing, from the moment of our birth.
Skyclad, stream-draped, we move as water falls,
seeking a place where every current stills,
the pattern finished and the weaving done.
We sing the streambanks and we sing the hills
and they sing us: each ridge, each valley calls
in its own voice, whose beauty intertwines
with every other song, as tendriled vines
weave through each other, raising everything
towards the light. We rise together, lift
each separate drop till banks are overrun
and all becomes a single flowing gift
whose energy inspires us to sing
with every sound we’ve heard since we awoke.
Brother, I live another life these days.
I walk through level forests where strange wings
convene in brambles for the journey south.
Our river changes course with every storm,
and changing marshes at the river’s mouth,
abundant, swarm with life. Here each voice sings,
melodious and joyful, in midair
and each sweet echo vibrates everywhere.
The resonance of earth repeats their sound
until creation sings in harmony.
And images on tidal swells transform
reflections, until mirrored ecstasy
fills every breath of air. Ripples surround
each stone along the shore, cascading through
each other, and, transfiguring, renew
the water’s surface and the flooded land.
I celebrate each echo. I rejoice
in every change as these reflections form
new images, now mirrored in my voice
in language we, together, understand:
a quiet whispering of joyful praise.
Untier of Knots
Sister, the tiny flowers at my feet,
scarlet and rose, open their petals wide
wherever dawn light touches them. They turn
with me towards the sunlight in the east,
as the same rose and scarlet seems to burn
across the early sky. The knot untied
inside my heart opens like those small buds,
until a healing correspondence floods
through every part of me. I praise the day,
the birdsongs and the winds, the flowing streams
renewing this parched land. Even the least
small fluttering of swallowtails seems
as graceful as an elegant ballet:
the earth dances around us. And what drives
the radiance around us, what survives
through grief and joy? Who can untie the cords
that bind us to the earth, or to our pain?
How will we dance when our bonds are released,
when only light and air, and song remain:
the wind our notes, the flowing streams our chords,
when grace makes every melody complete?