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Logan City
Poet Laureate
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Beckwith Violet Murrays Hill April 1 201
Forget Me Not Baxter Ridge April 24 2019
Maguires Primrose Logan Canyon May 6 201

Welcome to A Celebration of Cache Valley Voices, Shanan's Logan City Poet Laureate Project! All the following poems were written by current or former Cache Valley residents and include poems by community members, Utah State University undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty. 

If you are a current or former Cache Valley resident and would like to have your poem considered for publication on this site, please e-mail Shanan at  

Yellow Bell Orange Baxter Ridge April 24


       By Dennise Gackstetter


Standing on the gravel

eyes lifted to the cold dark sky

I see Jupiter, Venus, Saturn and the moon

aligned like good friends with a purpose.

I stand there

with my frayed confidence

weary and worn from too many days.

Even the moon grows thinner each month

until ultimately it disappears

a delicate smile lingering only as a memory.

Then from the darkness

it appears again

slim and bright

above the morning horizon.

Dennise Gackstetter has lived a very migratory life. Her wanderings have taken her many places across the country and around the world. She is a ceramic artist whose sculptural work explores the stories she finds hidden in the folds of everyday life. It is in these same ordinary moments and places which she discovers the poems she writes. Dennise is a Principal Lecturer in the Department of Art & Design at Utah State University.

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Rhapsody for Real Estate

                       By Ben Gunsberg


Reel me house to house,

our bank account ready for its root canal.

Let’s wander mid-century moderns,

poor cousins of Frank Lloyd Wright,

who flunked geometry because their flat-tops

failed to shed water.  We can pitch

a new roof, replace this wine-stained carpet

with hardwood. Maybe walnut,

maybe oak—either way, I’ll whack

those planks into place. You can cook,

I can clean.  Picture me on my knees

scrubbing toilets beyond innocent. Sweeping

closets. How pretty your dresses will look

chest to back, wife to wife. How sleek

my suits about to board first class

to nowhere. Let’s step outside

through sliding doors: O emerald square!

O butter-haired willow where a tire swing

drops like a hypnotist’s watch. We’re ready

to sway in hammocks, eavesdrop on katydids

as Jefferson did while framing our pursuit.

Let’s hold hands and float like Wendy

and Peter from backyard to half-bath

to master bath, unafraid of headache, allergy,

gas—our tiny tribes of medicine will colonize

these cabinets. My bride, our future

draws light and shadow through these blinds,

the yin and yang of dusk, and then the need

for bedside lamps, for we must read Tolstoy

aloud before sleep, before conception,

before track lights twist their little necks

to brighten our wild-haired infant.

I write this poem for him or her, for you, for we

should have a home where time hammers us

into place, all of us safe beside eternal

spice rack and knife block, apart from cracked

cement and crippled hula hoop, a home

where we see ourselves reflected in polished granite

countertops, midnight black, eyes within the rock.

Or, if not a home, at least this poem where we walk

barefoot across hardwood, whispering walnut, walnut, walnut.


            By Amrutha Obulasetty


Sweet summer dew 

petals match soaring canaries. 

Adobe, poppy seed, sunflower center

liberty weaves under, over,

and between velvet jade leaves

Stay, stay, stay

wind leans close, lifts a soft petal,

and whispers fair words of comfort 

Stay, stay, stay

overcast hides the sun as it begins to set

tucking itself under triumphant waves

Sun doesn’t listen. Sun doesn’t stay, 

but this sun will come back another day

and tomorrow

sweet summer dew will kiss

petals match wandering canaries

Adobe, poppy seed, sunflower center

the sun sends streaks of apologies

between velvet jade leaves, over and under

Amrutha Obulasetty is a junior at Utah State University and had Poet Laureate Shanan Ballam as her Introduction to Poetry professor. Some of her other published works include "Saffron Honey Hugs" featured in the Ekphrastic Magazine and her nonfiction essay "The Best Shade of Brown" was awarded second-place in the Utah State University Creative Writing Contest and was published in USU's Sink Hollow Literary Magazine's Creative Writing Contest Issue. When she is not writing, Amrutha competes regionally with the USU Speech and Debate team and loves to read.

burying a small dead snake

in card canyon 

                        by Jay Paine


I kneel, as if in prayer, 

over a shallow hole I dug 

with the heel of my boot. 

My friend kneels 

beside me, all four inches 

of a slick yellow snake 

draped across her hands. 

If each of its eyes 

did not look like a small 

and starless universe, 

I could pretend 

it is only motionless 

like the statues of maples 

awaiting a cool gust 

to loosen their leaves 

throbbing red 

with the loss of summer. 

I know if she neglects  

to bury this snake, 

slugs and pillbugs 

will ingest 

and shit out 

its remains, 

and if she buries it, 

slugs and pillbugs 

will still ingest 

and shit out its remains. 

She uncups her hands 

and lets the snake 

slip into the soil. 

How silly it all is, 

but I let her proceed 

with this burial 

of an insignificant 

creature like it’s the burial 

of a significant other. 

I don’t need to say anything. 

The sky spits rain 

to rinse scales, rinse 

cartilage, rinse tongue, 

tooth, trachea, 

and stomach. 


Icy Kisses

            By Amrutha Obulasetty


A cold breeze pinched our cheeks. 

Snow adorned our heads, creating crowns, 

Gloves and dresses of frostbite, 

Glass slippers of ice. 


Pollution and noise pushed aside. 

Laughter sings in the air. 

Our breath leaves in whispers of fog, 

Smiles in clouds of stupidity. 


A lone tree stood tall, strong. 

Its roots guiding me through the snow, 

As they create organic shapes 

Reminding me of my own veins and chaos. 


Chapped lips touched cold fabric.

Platonic lovers embrace under bare branches.

Leaves tumble passionately like

The intertwining of two separate snowflakes.

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Snow Hike 

            By Jay Paine


Because it gets lonely, 

               sitting on my couch avoiding 

                              everything outside 

                                             the gas-heated bubble 

                                of my apartment, so I take 

                a midwinter hike on the old 

juniper trail where snowflakes 

                               drop like stars 

                                              in freefall. 

                               I let myself fall 

                                               away from the bootpacked 

                                trail into an infinity of white 

               because I know the snowscape 

will resculpt itself to cup 

              the numb shape of my body, 

                              hold me like a mother 

                                            holds her baby. 

                                                        For the first time 

                                             in a long time, 

                              I feel held, sagebrush 

              resting beneath me, 

                            fragrant junipers 

                                             folding above. 

                                                                        I lie 

                                                            in snow, each flake 

                             dissolving like a teardrop 

               into the warm pink 

                                 of my cheeks.

An enthusiast of philosophy,  Jay Paine often overindulges in existentialism. When he’s not grappling with the meaning of life, you can find him penning a poem underneath a bigtooth maple. Jay is currently working on his undergrad at Utah State University, where he serves as a poetry editor for Sink Hollow: An Undergraduate Literary Magazine. Some of his work appears in the Roadrunner Review.



          by mckenna delton

Maybe I’m too


but red berries

frozen in place

look like

christmas ornaments.


So dramatic--

I get small

to see lichens &


on their level.


I found a tuft of fur

full of white bones.

It was a good omen.

An eagle rising

above the smoggy soup.

I played in the rocks,

chasing bliss.

Soft earth bowed

under foot.

Jagged angles

on the distant horizon,

muffled by fog.


I’ve always hated the phrase

“object of my affection,”

but maybe i’m just


a romantic.

I get lost wandering

along spider-webbing trails

too often for it to be

by accident.


Time passes differently

by lamplight.

I get lost there too. 


I think I read once:

It is the familiar spirit

of this place.

I might be hopeless,

but I think we make

an uncommon pair.


I’m soft -

I look for birds

they are my kindred



I choose to dance

every day


& be taken away

by dreams.



It Has Come to This

                 By Dennise Gackstetter


It has come to this. I’m sitting

in a doublewide rocker

alone. Cars pass. 

Clouds gather and grow,

their shadows shroud the

mountains’ shoulders.


Aspens blaze golden

in the cold turn of the season

as they have for centuries

when the days’ light wanes

and the nights wax long.

Each one an exact descendant

of those that came before:

roots, rhizomes, trunks,

branches, leaves.

Small shivering hearts

lift on each breath of breeze.


Long crinkled ribbons

of light lay across the grass.

The yard stretches to reach

the circle of horizon.

Minutes became moments

that somehow, grew into this day.

Beyond this, stars wait.


I’m no longer sure

what should come next

or how or why.

Does it really matter?

Heart wounds, body scars,

mended flesh and tended love.

I am here and I am breathing.

Small triumphs enough.


Night birds sing. Their wings

caress the evening air.

Out in the darkness

small points of light appear.

At the Threshold

                By Dennise Gackstetter


This morning I am tired.

I am tired of the effort to wake up

with enthusiasm,

to shore up the weight of the to do list

with productive energy,

to complete small tasks,

to find satisfaction in crossing off, and then

to sit with coffee contented.


This morning I am tired.

I am wearied by the effort to live

with calmness

to answer never ending emails

with politeness

to sit in meetings maintaining interest

to nod in agreement at decisions, and then

to return to my office informed.


This morning I am tired.

I am spent by the effort to care

with compassion

to hear the news of wild fires, tornados, floods

with ease

to expand my heart wider

to hold thousands of deaths and lost children, and then

to water the wilting flowers resigned.


This morning I am tired.

I am exhausted by the effort to open the door

with anticipation

to appreciate another day of this world

with gratitude

to observe the long shafts of sunlight

to delight in the first stirrings of birdsong, and then

to lift up my weighted heart.


This morning I am too tired.

I am standing at the edge of despair

with knowing, it is necessary

to surrender this body, this heart

without shame or guilt

to a refuge of silence and rest

to turn away from the moment, and then

to tell the world, “Not just now, not quite yet”.

Small talk

              By mckenna delton


another state of emergency declared

                 this time for drought

                                 heat like a fishbowl

                                                smelling of dust & sagebrush

                                                                 everything slowing down

                                                 the high desert grows drier

                                    & drier

                    too many dead perennials

supposed to live forever


everything has changed

               but the people and the place

                                the flood reduced to a trickle

                                                a consequence of the modern age


                                 lovers meeting at a strange time

                                                 an antidote to the sickness

                                                                & loathing       

                                                  somewhere for wanderers

                                 to come home to

                  forced out before long


a strong wind

                 coming down out of the canyon

                                 smelling like water


                                                  small talk and rivers

                                  if only meager things

                                  still had a chance          

                    i’d wish things were different


                    but what’s the use in that

Mckenna Delton is a Utahn who has been writing poems for three years. She has had poems published in the 2019 and 2021 editions of Metaphor Undergraduate Literary Journal and is currently working on self-publishing a collection of poetry. These poems are heavily influenced by concepts surrounding femininity and the natural world; they take a cynically hopeful look at the anthropogenic annihilation of the environment that is evident to those who are willing to look. Delton is pursuing a Master’s degree in Ecology at Utah State University and plans to write a book in the near future.

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Ben Gunsberg’s poetry appears in Poetry Daily, DIAGRAM, and Mid-American Review, among other magazines. He is the author of the poetry collection Welcome, Dangerous Life (Turning Point, 2018) and the chapbook Rhapsodies with Portraits (Finishing Line, 2015). His writing has won awards from the University of Michigan Hopwood Center and the Utah Division of Arts and Museums. He lives in Logan, Utah, and teaches English at Utah State University, where he directs the Graduate Specialization in Creative Writing. He moonlights as the Multimedia Editor for Sugar House Review.

Self-Portrait as a Mole at the End of the World

                                                              By Ben Gunsberg


I say “hawk” when asked by our children

what animal I would choose, except nights

I fear the end is near, news of chlorine gas,

missile tests, drone attacks. Those nights

I pick a mole because something soft


and harmless should survive a holocaust,

even if it means shrinking to one-fiftieth my size

and hiding underground until clouds drain

their poison and the great fires hiccup smoke

and the champion virus dulls its sword.


When sweetening roots signal a safer world,

I’ll surface, break through bone mounds

to sniff out grace. Nearly blind, I will not see

our crumbling, ant-lacquered street, blue,

luminous dragonflies haloing the porch.


I’ll snuffle through dust, pink feet padding

home, where I’ll rake my harmless claws

upon the mat and cast my small shadow on the bathroom

floor—the cold, white tiles still intact, shower cap

hanging like a dry mushroom on the brass knob.


I’ll recall, with my genius snout, Sunday morning

long ago, lavender soap, comb pulled behind

your ear, parting hair for which I hunt,

the old world still wet in my mind, like a robe

that draped your shoulders once.

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the calling

By mckenna dalton

“I sometimes choose to think, no doubt perversely, that man is a dream, thought an illusion, and only rock is real. Rock and sun.”                                                                      --edward abbey

i dreamt of snakes & coyotes

asleep under the juniper tree.

   her name is Voodoo      she told me

she is free under the sky--

its endless stars.

caught somewhere between sleep & waking


on a bed of snakes.

panicked & stumbling,

no way to break free

from the living wave--

it follows my feet

content to be crushed under them.


i live in a concrete box

no windows to let in the light

        day in day out       i live to serve

i eat food from a plastic bag

i drink coffee from a machine

compounding triglycerides

& complacency -- eyes

glazed over,

plump & soft & manicured


i fear im losing--

but still the calling remains

in the back of my skull


the valley is sick with a cancer

the sprawling city a blight

on the foothills

neighborhoods of concrete & strip malls

& fun for the whole family

too loud

the calling drowned out          a whisper now

I see the future from today--

a forgotten mansion

carved into hillside

-- I want it buried in snow.

tufts gather on branches & the exposed frame

weighing heavy on wood & steel alike.

life comes with the melt

branches bend

under the weight of moving water.

the sun seeps

trickles into cracks

& the freeze breaks

brick & mortar

food for the topsoil below.

magpies perch & fly

shattering the stillness

of a waiting winter forest.

 their wings leave soft kisses

on the powdery carpet,

& rabbits make winter burrows

of window sills & concrete.

the land is unlearning             its civilization


there’s something tugging at me

im caught on a wave I can't escape.

whispers haunt me

i hear them in the wind that shakes me as I sleep

--ripping sparks from the bed of coals

as it howls cold & violent in the night,

a millennia of beating on red cliffs-

the calling is choking me

i see its shadow on high peaks

--the sun filters through clouds

high patches of fire & light --

     i can almost make it out


in those quiet & lonely places…

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