I was each time,
conventional, I say my mouth,
that’s no world, I let you go,
in the lightning,
when my heart, closed its gift,
and the earth, found suffering,
if living, if it’s anything,
when I look into, the dead of love,
I was a pond, in your hands,
looked down, could see the bottom,
where the water, I say’s fire,
black vague stones, the bottom,
were faces, stood features,
heads singing, to themselves,
to overthrow, the vessels,
your hands said, we are shadows,
on the shoreside, was I not,
guts in a jar, open, but empty,
in your path, the wind’s,
the wind’s mine, "the woods in love are still empty,”
an empty born of us, who was once,
wrong & laughing, I
dissent, I, lover, remember
your mouth was a hand, a hand
cannot swim, it’s holding a stone,
in the lightning, comes the Spring,
in the lightning, who’s guiltless?,
beside the lightning, the darkness just seemed evil.
I burnt it, in canyon,
gave you, a bed,
when the canyon, I imagine,
or what of, whose fingers,
held back, sharp heart,
the quiet, itself,
desires, who then?,
I was holding, a knife,
would not climb, out of myself,
wind on wing, I can,
still eat that, white are the stars,
when the river, I say betrayal,
lifted a canyon, lowers the
wing, it’s not sky,
the water, no,
there are no, canyons in me,
what song, of compassion?,
I spill, the blades,
the river, heads,
with empty, the logic,
a poet, can't be,
a poet, both arms,
a color, through forehead,
blows out, a star,
dark are my clothes,
but you, will listen.
Three Questions for Wyatt
What is the significance of this work to you ("I Asked Dad if There Were Viet Cong Witches" and "Lilith, Arizona")?
I've always loved geography and maps. I'd navigate them when I lived on the road with my father in our van. My old life from these times pop in to visit my poems: Ozona, Texas; Palm Springs, California. I love that it's town first, comma, then state. I like the two words like that together. We all come from somewhere. Places are essential to being human, but they don't belong to us: they are just a part of who we are. The Vietnam War really fucked my father up. The killings he partook in, him watching friends rupture and shatter in agony. They were traumatized and spent to protect the rich’s investments, and I’m rather angry about that.
I pit the figure of the Witch against the State throughout my poems. We Witches are, by our natures, enemies to such authority, authorities capable of orchestrating the familiar horrors. People scrape the surface and think Witches are only Nature Worshipers, but it’s disobedience that decides the Witch—to resist community, dictionary, even our own biologies. Disobedience is virtuous and ungodly. This is why we wear black shoes to the Circle; this symbolism is obviously necessary. To gather the Shadows of Womankind is mutiny, and it’s ancient. Lilith is a territory into which you do not fully step—not out of fear, but reverence to the claim, Her claim. There is a real place in the Universe of no-trespass. I have come to learn this. These two poems are engaging with this knowledge.
What is the significance of the form you chose for this work?
I err on what feels right visually for a poem. Many say that poems are to be read out loud, but I disagree. How the poem looks on the page interests me more. I’d much rather see them hem and haw across a page than hear them out loud—I make exceptions, of course, but a rebel verb journeying out from the stanza, a tasteful font, the anxiety of line against margin are, to me, the most engaging structures of poems. In "Lilith, Arizona," I experienced what I’ll describe as an echo-fight between a lily-like being and its own Dark Matter—something like bargaining with your gender, I guess. And so, the poem created a schism within its own psychological form, like so many of us do in our 30’s.
What was the process for creating this work?
I’ve thought very much about how Men’s hegemony employs and consumes Women. In "I Asked Dad If There Were Viet Cong Witches," I was mulling over the experiences my father had had with women in Vietnam—often ending in sex, in murder, or both. The hilarity with which he would tell these stories made me hate him. He got off on acting unremorseful, like assholes enjoy doing, but I had seen evidence to the contrary—his nightmares, his tears, his wandering rage. One day, when I was a child, I asked him if he had seen any Witches in Vietnam, if he had experienced any powerful women. I won’t bore you with his answer, but my question to him became the source of this poem. When I engaged further into the question, I came to understand that it was conducting its own kind of investigation. I still think about those young women, those girls he killed. All these years later, and I still don’t know how to mourn them.
Wyatt Welch grew up on the Interstates after being kidnapped by their father. Watching the boundaries of Self and the State has been the work of their recent poetry, alongside other poetic concerns such as living gay/transgender in the United States. Their recent work has been published in Aired, deLuge Literary and Arts Journal, the Metric, Mantra Review, the Ocotillo Review, Persephone's Daughters, Anacua Literary Arts Journal, and the Tucson Weekly. Welch earned their MA in Linguistics and African Languages at the University of Florida. Currently, Welch lives in Tucson, Arizona, where they teach at the University of Arizona and impart revolutionary, feminist Witchcraft at Dry River Witches' Shoppe.