“Field of Oats at Grez,” oil on canvas, by Karl Nordstrom, 1885.

Sweet High Bath of Unknowing

Bright sun, oblique sun of late afternoon
in a small alpine town,
white and tan horses grazing snow melt
and snow in lazing fields—

Could I remember more of childhood
or its sibling, youth,
I might know what it is about capturing beauty,
such as horses in a winter’s field,
paradox of fierce wan sun,
frail askew houses on tilting hills.

Will I give to darkness,
not a trace of warm breath nuzzling
some sweet high bath of land
gently withering away sweet morsels that rise,
valiant, to meet the longing tongue?

Leaving, I saw again how day
is sniped by night in abandon,
fields become blind eyes, faces tipped to stars,
cold moon cratered
with sequestered keepsakes of day.

Might one conjure what beckoned us this time—
not the illness, as in those urgent, more somber days—
but what continues to lure to alien terrain,
to genteel murderous horses,
clapboard houses blinking,
grand shadows of marginless mountains

and with such need to sing, to paint
the certain vex of nostalgia,
for what, exactly—can I,
can one ever say?

Inside Outside In

To imagine life on the prairie
is to imagine death by everything—
the enormous sky cradling the nothing
that grows nearly all year,
trees and vines that start and falter,
ditches in the thirst-crazed dirt
beneath feet and calves
bloodened by prickly pear
and high stippled grasses
the lonesome post office with its bent spent man—
to stare at windmills, huge spider-spires
to wake to days themselves horizons
the nearest human ten acres away
who snorts or chains or drowns in scripture
seeking answers to barrenness—
even the cows seem preternaturally depressed
or possibly are spooked by gigantic tumbleweeds
that suddenly thwack their prisons
and prick their dumb wide eyes—
to hear far-off sheep and pigs and chickens
awaiting slaughter, coyotes in the night
screeching their maniac hunger—
and to peer from a smeared kitchen window
to so much clarity that you never wipe the glass
because what happens out there
is so serene and clean
that a city girl like you built of brick and cement
instead of  dust and clay
could crack from the inside out
a hundred madnesses a day
knowing no more than prairie natives
how to handle such severity
such blank abundance
such black fanatic purity.


Raised in Georgia, Julianza (Julie) Shavin is a composer, writer, and visual artist who adopted the Rocky Mountains as home. She works as a specialist content editor and is a licensed professional proofreader. Pikes Peak Arts Council has conferred upon her Performance Poet and Page Poet awards; she also has numerous honors through The National Federation of State Poetry Societies. Her fifth book, Closet Optimist’s Creed, is scheduled for summer 2017. She serves as President of Poetry West, plays cello with the Pikes Peak Philharmonic Orchestra, and collaborates with New York-based spoken-word artist Hank Beukema on a Youtube poetry/music series.