|Chagrin River Review||
Joan Colby -- Poetry
The fat cock iridescent
As taffeta. Its scarlet eyepatch,
Purple throat, green skullcap
Brilliant copper breast fluted in black,
Small autistic amber eye
Posed against an imaginary snowbank,
Flimsy shrub dangling three torn leaves,
Corn stubble to the right and overall
A layered lowering sky.
The painting was complete. You were
Exercising the Thoroughbred in an October meadow,
A pheasant flushed beneath his hooves.
He reared straight up as if seized by the rapture,
Then came down sunfishing.
Fall mornings shotguns echoed.
Flapping awkwardly out of cover
Into the sheen of death, into the soft
Mouths of Labradors.
In yesterday’s snowstorm,
Ornate as the one in the painting,
A cock marched down our lane
With strict military measure. A lone soldier
Of fortune leaving its trinity signature. I haven’t
Fire on the Slope
The mountain was on fire,
red and gold, a pall of smoke
clearing suddenly as a stroke
victim’s apprehension, to invoke
the genius of hell seizing the canopy
pine by pine like damned souls.
We watched from below
waiting the order to evacuate.
The little mining town
built on a scheme of gold
too difficult to extract
in a brief season. The pass
closed most of the year.
Fire descended as if on ropes,
brilliant aerialists swinging
a trapeze of needles. Smoke
homesteaded the foothills.
I was twelve, excited by danger.
Smoke-jumpers, men with axes
setting backfires. Our house
open to conflagration.
I clutched the spaniel.
Days later, embers still bolted
like red animals, but most
of the mountainside was ash
reigned over by witch trees
lifting brimstone hands
to bless us.
an amorous greenery.
Harsh burls and knots
choke words that have arrived
like tinder on a clean fire.
Deciduous forest, second growth,
conflagration of years we regret.
Deadfalls, clearcuts, leaves
burnished with dismissal.
Almanacs of blizzard or drought.
Jagged limbs groan
beneath ice. How love
circles the society
of the downfallen.
In the old tales, children
escape to the forest. The maiden
is lost. The wolves lurk.
The witch steams in her hut.
Beloved by herbalists.
A universal antidote.
A thief accepted poison
To test its efficacy
And died in great distress.
Still its powers extolled
By alchemists and magicians
Pulsing with the lore of faith.
Under glass, on a shelf
In the vet’s sanctuary,
The largest one he has extracted.
Formed in a horse’s cecum
In concentric mineral rings
The way a pearl surrounds an irritant.
The horse refused its hay
Stomped, groaned, lay down
A difficult diagnosis: choke.
Large as a cannon ball,
A visitor declares it
Disgusting. Freakish marble
Of the bowel.
The vet defends his prize.
The body’s curious device
Like everything: magical.
The Lonely Hearts Killers, Spoon River Poetry Press
The Atrocity Book, Lynx House Press
How The Sky Begins to Fall, Spoon River Poetry
The Boundary Waters, Damascus Road Press
Blue Woman Dancing in the Nerve, Alembic Press
Dream Tree, Jump River Press
Beheading the Children, Ommation Press
Over 900 poems published in journals including Poetry, Atlanta Review, GSU Review, Portland Review, Rockhurst Review, South Dakota Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, Karamu, New York Quarterly, the new renaissance, Grand Street, Epoch, Mid-American Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Kansas Quarterly, The Hollins Critic, Minnesota Review, Western Humanities Review, College English, Another Chicago Magazine and others.
Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature; Illinois Arts Council Literary Award, Stone County Award for Poetry, Rhino Poetry Award, the new renaissance Award for Poetry. Finalist in the 2007 GSU Poetry Contest. Honorable mention in the 2008 and 2010 James Hearst Poetry Contest (North American Review), Finalist in 2009 Margie Editor’s Choice Contest, Finalist in 2009 Nimrod International Pablo Neruda Prize. Illinois Arts Council Literary Award 2007.
Colby is editor of Illinois Racing News for over 25 years, a monthly publication for the Illinois Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Foundation, published by Midwest Outdoors LLC. She lives with her husband and assorted animals on a small horse farm in Northern Illinois. She has three grown children and six grandchildren.