William Kelley Woolfitt

Manzanar: Rough Work

Owens Valley

Despite the barbs, he thanks the cacti
for their sour berries. His sweaty hand
smears the letter from the city of vultures.
Your boat is gone, his friend writes.
The yuccas tell him some beseechments

should be held close, never uttered,
others flung to the wind. He rakes
a walkway between the barracks,
digs a pond. The sun poaches his face.
With rough work, with the mariposa lilies

and beard-tongues he plants, a garden rises
where dread should be. He breathes in
the blue lupines, the far mountains,
and cools his prickles of heat, his fear
that he’s hanging, caught in the air—a lantern

full of fire, a stranger to the earth.


William Woolfitt is the author of three poetry collections: Beauty Strip (Texas Review Press, 2014), Charles of the Desert (Paraclete Press, 2016), and Spring Up Everlasting (Paraclete Press, forthcoming). His fiction chapbook The Boy with Fire in His Mouth (2014) won the Epiphany Editions contest. His poems, short stories, and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Blackbird, Image, Tin House, The Threepenny Review, AGNI, and other journals. He edits Speaking of Marvels, a gathering of interviews with poets and prose writers. His favorite sweet is his grandmother’s applesauce cake with hickory nuts.

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