Joannie Stangeland’s In Both Hands

Should you wonder, I can’t italicize words in the post title, which is why the titles of books are not. Furthermore, Joannie Stangeland’s book has “both” italicized, so, In Both Hands.

And this is a book you’ll want to hold onto with both hands — it has flying horses, furious skies, lakes that rise into the air — all in all, a volatile place to lose yourself for an hour or two.

I chose this poem (below) for you to read out loud and savor, because of the final tercet. As the poem begins with “Words tonight fly out as black as crows,” I can guess that the home the poet refers to is language (perhaps more complex than that). But having spent an hour with my mother today, at her care home, attempting to have a conversation with this dearly beloved woman who can no longer carry the thread of a conversation, the poem rings true for me on an even deeper level.  Let me add to that comment, that many of the poems in this book are about mothers and daughters. I have read most of the poems before; and I suspect I will read them many times again. I hadn’t sat and read them all at once, and it was a lovely and resonant choice, particularly today.


Words tonight fly out as black as crows,
oily and stubborn, ruffled and sharp.
Feathers may litter the floor.

The air holds a fever, a taut pitch,
a howl we hitch to, each unsure
of our turf. Bristling, a hiss—

and it isn’t the kettle or the cat.
But we swallow the rest, stinging
until the barbs wing into the night.

We settle our worries like eggs.
Tomorrow, we draw the same breath
when we see the mountains rising

into morning, as white as clouds.
A crow’s nest is a sloppy mess,
a loose muddle of twigs in a tree.

Love is like that—on a hard day, held
with spit and bits of string—
on a good day, home.

—Joannie Stangeland

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  1. […] and Northwest poets specifically. Among the many, Rose Alley has published Michael Spence, Joanne Kervran Stangeland, Donald Kentop, and one of my professors from UW days, William Dunlop. David is also responsible […]

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