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Willowing in Winter
Timothy Walsh

Willowing while the river ran wild past our feet,
we reached out reckless from the bank
to grasp the longer shoots dangling over water.
Just one more armful, you said, just one more
sheaf to finish that last basket that sits
with ribs exposed on the dresser
looking something like a shipwreck.
Back home, you kneel amid discarded clippings,
twisting water-soaked willows round the basket’s ribs,
sometimes using feet or teeth to secure loose strands.
Pen in hand, I watch and write,
weaving words like willows round a delicate frame
that has no strength until the willow’s warp
binds it to itself,
flexible yet stronger than it will ever need to be.
Words are more willow than water,
more a growing thing than a flowing,
to be shaped into a woven web whose worth
is partly in itself and partly in what it will carry.
From amid your clutter comes a small thing of integrity.
You speak of all the sap in a quart of syrup,
of the gallons of milk in a block of cheese,
of the canceled pages behind my lines. . .
In the hollow of the bed,
we weave our arms round each other,
twist together our souls’ desire like licorice,
and there is no wind more wild than our blood.
Willowing while the river ran eternally toward the sea,
I saw your toe touch water when you leaned
nearly too far out,
and I knew your limbs and the limbs of the tree
drank somehow from one source,
and my love opened upward and out,
filling the sky with blue.
From Wild Apples (Parallel Press).
Used here with the author’s permission.

Timothy Walsh grew up in New Jersey but has spent the past three decades in Wisconsin. He currently directs the Cross-College Advising Service at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Timothy’s latest collection of poetry is When the World Was Rear-Wheel Drive: New Jersey Poems (Main Street Rag Publishing). His inspiration comes from walking or bicycling whenever he can, and being on or near the water whenever possible—­canoeing, kayaking, sailing, or sitting by the shore. He also enjoys tending a garden of roses, climbing vines, and fruit trees while the garden tends to him. Learn more about Timothy at







Post New Comment:
Anne E. L. :
While driving to the north, the profound beauty of the natural world, as expressed through the natural world, seems to be expressed through your idea: "Words are more willow than water." Beauty is more profound than autumn's Midas' touch.
Posted 10/11/2012 07:30 PM
Loved this. I make willow baskets. Doris
Posted 10/11/2012 02:07 PM
Strong, exquisite. Thanks.
Posted 10/11/2012 12:49 PM
The closing lines of this poem are absolutely extraordinary.
Posted 10/11/2012 10:16 AM
What an absolutely gorgeous, tender, and touching poem. The images are superb, the skill amazing. Strong and beautiful!!!! Now I have to go purchase the collection Wild Apples.
Posted 10/11/2012 10:08 AM
ed werstein:
Excellent poem. The stanza that starts, From amid your clutter...., is a poem in itself. Great work, thanks.
Posted 10/11/2012 08:30 AM
such a lovely start to a dark morning...beautiful poem thanks, Sharon Auberle
Posted 10/11/2012 07:30 AM
Thank you! I most enjoyed this moment reading this this morning, before opening the front door.
Posted 10/11/2012 02:29 AM

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