Logan City
Poet Laureate
Project

Welcome to A Celebration of Cache Valley Voices, Shanan's Logan City Poet Laureate Project! Many of the following poems were written by Cache Valley residents during poetry writing workshops I led for the 2020 Write @ the Logan Library Writers Conference.

If you are a Cache Valley resident and would like to have your poem considered for publication on this site, please e-mail Shanan at shanan.ballam@gmail.com  

Archive

Hershey’s Kiss

                          by Anne Schill

 

Grandma lays them out

for the grandkids

on Christmas Eve

in a china plate

bordered with blue flowers

that frankly,

look more like soap bubbles

than forget-me-nots

but still hold the most glorious

gift of the holidays.

The glass nativity watches over

as I take a silver drop

from the aluminum pond.

The angel smiles

and the star glows

and I swear I see something in

baby Jesus’s eyes,

like he wants one too,

and maybe that’s what Mom means when she says

God always knows how I’m feeling.

I take one and unwrap it,

the paper slip crinkling

like a page from the Bible.

I try to pull the foil

away without tearing it

but my excitement finds its way into my stubby fingers

and with a twitch,

the wrapper breaks.

I sigh, and cradle it in my hands for a moment to mourn.

Then I rip away the rest of the foil

and partake in the blessed sweet flavor

of Grandma’s humble gift.

I crumple the wrapper into a ball

and stick it in my pocket

as a record of my zealous commitment

to perfection.

I take another drop from the bowl,

its tiny body settling between the grooves of my palm,

and I try once more.

Anne Schill attempts to untangle life through writing, visual art, and music.

Lost at Sea

                 by Gail Christensen

On the second morning of January,

first cup of coffee in hand,

I stand in the kitchen as if

on the bow of a ship, gazing out

on the sea of maple floor,

the jetsam of pine and glitter,

drops of red wine, chocolate crumbs,

the ghostly shoe prints of sailors,

evidence smeared on the smooth glass,

that something happened here,

something joyful in the cold night,

time that will not in the same way

be again, a spilling still warm

that needs not be so soon swept away,

not before a moment of silence,

not before a proper goodbye;

and so, respectfully, I linger,

unmoored to the impatient hour tapping

its foot on shore, and adrift

in the dead calm that comes before

I pour another cup.

Gail Christensen grew up in Ogden, Utah. She graduated from Utah State University with a degree in English. She also retired from USU where she was a typesetter and graphic designer for various departments on campus. She and her husband have lived in Richmond, Utah since 1980. They have two daughters and three grandchildren, all living in Salt Lake City.

Kiss

       by Flora Shrode

 

Proof that a little can go

a long way.

A familiar treat--

sweet, smooth, evokes

memory and desire

reflected like light on the

creased silver wrapper.

The delicate labeled tag

opens an idea, possibility

beneath a gentle tug.

Flora Shrode lives in North Logan, UT, where she moved from her native Tennessee in 2001. After 28 years as an academic librarian, she opened a new life chapter in 2017 and enjoys activities with various community groups. Flora has varied interests, including reading, writing, hiking, knitting, watching TV, camping, and traveling to Phish concerts with her husband, Paul Jakus.

Early Warning System

                               by Brock Dethier

 

Before my fingers even touch the foil

it sends its warning to my teeth:

Beware! Remove all silver before consuming!

Cannot be responsible for freaked-out teeth.

Brock Dethier recently retired from the Utah State University English Department where he worked for 21 years. 

I Am Play-doh
                        by the Lillywhite Family

You can make a snake out of me.
I am fruity in hue but vanilla in scent.
Rolling, stretching, breaking, and then 
                             squishing and reforming.
I am like crumbling leaves.

I am fruity in hue but vanilla in scent.
I am sticky.
I am like crumbling leaves.
I'm a squishy type of monster.

I am sticky.
Step on me, I'll smash and stiffen in your shoe
I'm a squishy type of monster.
Remember to wash your hands.

Step on me, I'll smash and stiffen in your shoe
Rolling, stretching, breaking, and then 
                            squishing and reforming.
Remember to wash your hands.
You can make a snake out of me.

 

The Lillywhite Family: Mike, Lori, Erik (14), Ethan (10), Brendan (7), & Lauryn (4). This poem was made as part of our annual family poetry festival. Together we enjoy Lego building, reading, hiking, freeze tag, ice cream, and game nights.

God of Winter

                        by Alan Briggs

 

my blizzard wrecks terror 

millions of unseen flee,

screaming before the swath

of frost hurling from my path 

who is the norse god of blizzards?

of ice storms?

of the myriad words for snow

I am.

directing my polar divinity's fury.

until I turn

forgetting long learned arcane preparations 

and icy winds knock

me from my arctic Parthenon

a forgotten patriarchal oracle

don't spit into the wind

cold sheets smother my face.

slobbering fenrir with slushy poison

heralding ragnarok

and I am vanquished and 

entombed

until icy fingered 

i curse runiecally 

and turn the snowblower chute 

to make another pass

across the driveway

Alan Briggs writes poetry because he never learned to tap dance. He should have lived more; breaking pieces off the Berlin Wall and trying to get arrested by the KGB were ethereal pleasures. He lives in Nibley with his wife (who still likes him most days), his son, two chickens who refuse to lay eggs in winter, and one cat. He has drafted three books and published one. The night he can watch the moon rise over Cache Valley and can distill it into pungent, reverent, soulful prose will be the culmination of his life.

Weeding

             by Star Coulbrooke

 

Weeding is my meditation, my therapy.

                                    —Iris Nielsen

 

For the light blue mat of star flowers,

fragile-seeming, powder light,

I pull with all my energy—I pull for them.

I pull their tough entangled stems,

their sticky hairs all meshed together,

pulling them from mat on mat of partners

all in bloom, all blooming with these tender

stars, cloud-light and feather-soft, stars

that drop to dark earth as I pull, a patch

of soil now seeded with what must

come up again in season, so many of them,

like stars encrusting my home sky

out in farmland by the river where the Milky

Way encrusts the already-starful dark,

no lights to blot their separate blooms

all falling, falling like these blue star

flowers I hesitate to weed, these blooms

we call weeds, thick as stars.

Star Coulbrooke is the Inaugural Poet Laureate of Logan City Utah, founder and coordinator of the Helicon West reading series, and director of the Utah State University Writing Center. Star’s poems are published internationally in journals, magazines, and anthologies. Her most recent poetry collections are Thin Spines of Memory, Both Sides from the Middle, and City of Poetry.

Springing in the Wasatch 

                                           By Iris Nielsen

 

The temperature rises

from freezing to thaw in the phase of a moon.

The Snowdrops and Hellebores

struggle to spring their shoots upwards,

through the churned-up leaves of the bygone Autumn,

they pierce through the decay of Winter.

 

Beneath the snowbanks lies the Crocus and Hyacinths,

their heads buried as Spring in the Wasatch stumbles in.

Through the melting crust, they thrust upward

basking in the sunlight, that warm caress of Spring.  

Arriving too soon they are covered in a white blanket,

their nodding heads pressed down by the weight.

 

Diligently they survive, struggling to remain straight

frozen solid, their tongues stuck out in defiance.

The sun rises on the horizon; they unfreeze,

springing forth in their quest for life.

That smell of Spring, that fresh clean scent,

that promise of life.

 

The lamb slays the lion

and Winter yields its grasp.

A hummingbird suckles on the

Quince’s crepe paper flowers.

with the short fast beats of their wings-

Spring then… surrenders to Summer.

Iris Nielsen has always written poetry, and she has examples of poems that she wrote dating back to the third grade. As a teenager she often channeled her angst into poems. Then she put down her pen for many years, partially due to technical issues in her writing and partly due to discomfiture. Only in the last five or six years has she started writing again, older and more comfortable in her own skin. She opened up to creative expression for its own sake, understanding some people will not understand or like what she writes, and that is fine. She writes with her own voice, as she sees the world, full of beauty but sadly also too much negativity.  

Redtail

            By Russ Winn

 

I watch the pole, Pacificorp 342703, in the driveway. Wood in the weather,

faded from light and rain, squats soft, spotted at the bottom, still tan

from water-wear, spirals of morning glory, bits of rusted staple from

old missing posters, grounding wire, straight and stiff, leads up to dark

creosote patches, steel bolt stigmata, and a predator.

 

There at the graying top, amidst tangles of shielded coaxial lines, fibers of

Telecom cable, wires wound around a dull transformer stove kettle, perched

upon an overturned glass insulator teacup, sits a red-tailed hawk, her gaze

another black line draping off the pole.

 

She’s been watching rabbits in the neighborhood nudge their

way through field and garden, set free from a car on the corner last

year. For months they could not be counted in their numbers and

shyness, but the hawk on her mast knows the colony. Loves the herd.

 

She watches me, too, as if to ask how long my stay here will last

and how it shall end. Will it be divorce, fierce and sudden bankruptcy

and whisked away by lenders, swooping death from the virus,

or just the years? Just the years…

 

Her form ripples, feathers rouse, and she pivots on her steeple as she looks to say,

“I think I could love you, if you’d like, instead of any of those other creeping

things you fear. I’d make it swift, death from above, torn skin and flayed arteries,

then a wet lump in the grass. More honesty than a pandemic. Less uncertainty.”

 

Now, with the sun behind, unseen, she takes her leave, and I squint. Unable to follow.

Russ Winn teaches composition, research, and curling classes at USU.  His research and writing explore his childhood home and the landscape archaeology surrounding the Bear River Massacre.

(C) Shanan Ballam 2020.  
All nature photographs on this site by Shanan Ballam
Portrait photograph by John DeVilbiss