The Distance Between
by Iris Jamahl Dunkle

Grateful for the tree, not just what’s air-bound:

              oak trunk thick enough to thwart cannon balls
              black bark, dark tributaries opening
              arthritically toward sky

                                                  but also what’s

beneath soil’s vinculum:

                                                  uncharted roots,

              blind animals pushing toward light, toward
              idea of water—belief it will be found.

Dear 206 Million Gallons of Oil –

How you bloom and cloud. Wait, weeks pour into
months. It’s not your motion we are fighting.

The freeway ashes golden valley—cross
carelessly smudged on foreheads. Drive. Drive.

Some days I log 200 – 300 miles. A long commute
to work and back. Kids to soccer in minivan.

Can’t you see there is no bus, no feet to
carry the weight of this:    No other way.
Loom, stalk us like the Blob. Even when radios stop slopping
their electronic tongues.    In you I bloom too –

                              what have you dredged up from the deep?

When I speak about the oil spill I am also speaking about the cut redwood trees on the 116 Exit of Highway 101. How they jut like decapitated bodies in the low fog.

I am speaking of the bright language of orange poppies. State flower. My children’s questions about whether or not they are allowed to pick those bright, oily orange petals.

About the earnings report and how we will craft the message to meet the market’s expectations. Then later, re-craft it to meet employee expectations.

Bumper to bumper traffic. Stuck. Looking at burnt hills. Looking through closed windows into grimacing faces. How far away my children’s voices sound on a static filled cell phone call.

How sun cuts, has sharpened. How even the oaks bend away from it’s want.

I’m thinking about how to make a story that will broadcast this distance:

              There was once a sea
              that blossomed oil
              until the sea became sick
              until we looked into it
              and saw ourselves.

Our Flesh, Delivered by Ghosts
for Deborah Digges
by Iris Jamahl Dunkle

The Pomo Indians believe sorrow reflects back
worn smooth and bright as abalone shells.

This morning the granite-veined mountains shouted
into that blue, widening of mind:

exultations or siren-songs, that ripen,
drop, and are left to blett in thin mountain air.

Even flat-lined on steady footing of valley
floor, memory turns over, rustled by

wind: silver dollar shaped aspen leaves turning
olive green to pale in an instant.

At Luther Burbank’s Garden,
the mother tree serves also as witness
reaching fifty grafted arms skyward. Fall,
and long into winter blazing the burden of apples:
Gravenstein, Pink Pearl, Etter’s Gold, Rome.

You said pluck high
You said raise a scaffold toward possibility:

leaving the sound of a scattering of shells, this long

season of want.

Iris Jamahl Dunkle teaches writing at University of California, Santa Cruz. Her chapbook Inheritance was published by Finishing Line in 2010. Her poetry, creative nonfiction and scholarly articles have appeared in numerous publications including: Fence, LinQ, Boxcar Poetry Review, Weave, Verse Wisconsin, Talking Writing, Yalobusha Review and The Mom Egg.