THREE POEMS by W.F. Lantry


…and if the sound of something distant bends
these ears towards desire, or renews
emotions of a night long past, can we
recover, in a moment, what had been
a world to us, who invented then
a universe of longing, out of all

our visions of those diverse elements:
water and wind and light, their interplays
ephemeral, with or without our words
or constantly in flux, like flame or smoke
chaotic in their patterns, half obscured
one by the other, undivided, or

commingled by the half regretted wind
remade and lost, or harmonized, as if
the whole scene could endure without that change
which made it actual, renewing then
as now, a longing of remembrance in
this solitary world’s midnight air?


    “The sky acutest at its vanishing… ”
            – Stevens

Contortions of the southern air fulfill
between these limbs of slash pines what I thought
was clear before I moved here- that this earth
more transitory than the atmosphere
moving in vortexes from off the Gulf
whose rigged out lights seemed stable in the wind

has its own memory, and can recall   
or evidence, what once had passed: these oaks
renewed but demonstrating ancient strikes
identical in place and form to these
now passing from this ground into a sky
illuminated constantly- this dark

cut by this spiral lightning seems remade
as she remakes within me what I’d lost
or half recalled before the scattered rain
began, and I, in lightning shadows call
a name I’ve never known, while the Gulf wind
unstable, only passing, reconvenes.


Those lights across the bay come on again
reflected on the surface intermixed
by wind with flashes of these seabirds wings
habitual but new in rough designs
of unplanned motion, and the double bridge
unmoored, throws off its long accustomed shape

as she throws off the gown of her repose
and moves, with almost tidal grace, into
my sleepless arms. Or are my motions like
the wind reflected surface under stars
or lost herons, their undivided cries
echoed like light along the cypressed shore

unseen or heard by any wanderer
searching these banks for something more than life
or more than chaos on the evidence
of concrete pilings from the hurricane
remnants of fireworks, a red crab’s shell
and starred birdprints ascending from the waves.



The living waters are everything to poetry. For many of us, our first glimpse of vibrant mystery comes early, when we put a drop of pond water under a child’s microscope, and an unimagined realm of life comes suddenly into focus. And there is something both practical and mystical about living water: we choose to live near it, and speak of it constantly and subconsciously. Looking back, every body of water I’ve lived near has informed my poetry. The Pacific currents and their tide pools near San Diego, the deep blue of the Côte d’Azur, the still flowing of the Charles River, the bayous of the Gulf Coast. Even here, in my adopted home, my wild garden ends at the Anacostia River, which flows or ebbs with the cycle of rainfall. The trees it nourishes, broken by storms, become materials for my lathe: bowls and candle holders, given as gifts, derive their beauty from the wood grain, the rings, which are a tangible record of those living waters.

And so with our poetry, which becomes a tangible record of both storms and life-giving rain. For a poem is like a glass of water, dipped from the stream of daily existence and handed to whoever reads it. Even the lines sometimes feel like waves, endlessly recurring and breaking on the shores of our hearing. And water is also like grace, all around us, sometimes little noticed, but at certain moments the only thing that matters.

We need to remember all this. We need to make sure the waters go on living. Our pursuit of profit is often our ruin. There must be another way.


W.F. Lantry received his Licence and Maîtrise from the Université de Nice, M.A. in English from Boston University and Ph.D. in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Houston. The recipient of the Paris/Atlantic Young Writers Award, and the CutBank Patricia Goedicke Prize in Poetry, his work has appeared in The Wallace Stevens Journal, New Verse News, Ellipsis, Writing for Human Rights, Interrobang?! M agazine and Gulf Coast. He currently works in Washington, DC.


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