Back to Issue Sixteen.

willapa bay



The three-quarter moon is tipped in the sky, still sleeping.
Sea grass bristles, fulfilling its duty to the wind.

I tip my head to match the angle of the moon,
As though my ear could pull a tide from myself.

The inner wave is calm, but broils below
With a gratitude I’m careful not to drown in.

What to do with it – wind, weeds, water,
Earth – now I know why they call you mother.

How the tall grass waves in all of our languages:
Goodbye, hello, help us, help.

How even when we go, the earth keeps us here.
How living is nothing but a flutter of wings.


The wind’s one note catches
In the branches of the great Sitka spruce

With an effortless acceptance that opens
Some bowl in me to that sound.


How can I walk away from this place
That traces sky, mountain, water, wind, in one seamless line?

How can I walk away when I’m choked with the voice of the mother,
Parched from reciting the list of the dead?

How can I walk away when the perfect horizon
Is killing me with a crazed love – let me stay, let me stay.


Let the cougar stalk, let the black bear roam.
Come, come, beasts of the earth in your armies of fur and horn.

Let your bodies be automatic weapons to rage us down.
Make your nests in the abandoned house by the bay.

Raid the fridge, ruffle up the beds, let the land grab begin.
We are not sorry, we are over, come gorge on the carcasses.


Let me stay, let me go, I’m the earth’s,
I am wild from the future’s howl.

Cry, cry, crows on the shore.
What have you heard? What have you seen?

Tell me what the bay said when you insisted.
Tell me where you’ve hidden the bones in the field.





The sky is smudged by a finger
dipped in pink.

Mountains hold their purple
tightly to themselves like secrets.

Under heron’s wings
a shifting blue swoops in.

The artists can’t keep up with its names:
cobalt, cerulean, turquoise, cyan.

While they talk, the bay keeps bluing
and re-bluing, the moon widening

into its whiteness
like a growling mouth.

A million-year-old croak
lines the sky of the heron’s flight

as though it had been boiling
all that time in its belly.

We watch the blues blacken
and the pinks dissipate

like gowns dragged across the sky.
We flick on our flashlights,

step onto the path,
poised for black bears and snakes,

too late to settle on the color’s proper name,
folded as it is into the forest’s throat.

Hila Ratzabi was selected by Adrienne Rich as a recipient of a National Writers Union Poetry Prize and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is the author of the chapbook The Apparatus of Visible Things (Finishing Line Press). Her poetry is published or forthcoming in Narrative, Alaska Quarterly Review, Drunken Boat, Linebreak, The Nervous Breakdown, Leveler, H_NGM_N, Cortland Review, and others. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in the anthologies Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology and The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry. She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College, and lives in Philadelphia, where she founded the Red Sofa Salon & Poetry Workshop. She is the editor-in-chief of Storyscape.

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