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Martin Willitts, four poems


Light changes slowly with subtle words

such as cautious and determinedly,

marking a demarcation line across the horizon,

delineating between day and night

taking over the sky. The drakes in the wetlands

are excited by the transformation.

Above, in daylight, you can see the moon

like a white wafer. Perception only amazes

the participant who never notices

the daily occurrences with minor variations.

What are different are the blending shades,

the clouds wheeling like hawks, the way light

haunches on the edge while day begins or ends.

There is always this anticipation of the differences,

and the end results are that our expectations are met —

not in color, or uncertain times for the transfers,

but in the way no two days begin or end the same.

Thousands of years, the universe has palpitated,

expanded and contracted like a heart,

with such restlessness, and we barely notice

what is plain to the eye: the universe is constant

and changeable. We barely break the surface

of observation and when we do, we take for granted

the drakes will migrate when marshes are ice tinged,

and the drakes will return when spring returns,

never considering it might be otherwise.

Early Warning

Was it steadfast for the apricot

to remain on a tree

and be covered by early snow?

or, was it pound-foolishness,

unawareness of the ashen skies?

The storm plunged in

with suddenness of a hawk.

We get early warnings

and ignore them.

It is not as though danger lurks

behind a mountain range

or can rise up out of nowhere.

A tidal wave always starts somewhere —

a rift in the ocean floor,

tectonic plates shifting, or moon-pull.

A friend of mine lets anger get to him:

his third stent in one year.

I’ve warned him.

He has fissures, his solid refusal to change.

Someday, without warning,

another attack will swoop in.

The "Lily: The yellow of the Columbia" (Fritillaria pudica)

its root must be "the food of the natives"

the yellow fritillary

was collected near the headwaters

of the Missouri River

it grows throughout the Pacific Northwest

in well-drained, dry, sunny sites, and is today

a valued rock garden species

for its nodding,

golden-yellow flowers and its petite habit

it reminded Jefferson of his wife's hand

and her smell

it defied reason

it swelled with the seasons

it haunted him at candlelight

like her

in the oval cameo, in the oval

of a bed

This Topography Is Unexpected As Bitterroot ((Lewisia rediviva)

(State flower of Montana)


Bitterroot can live for more than a year without water

its pink blossoms conspire close to the ground

so it can hear itself called the "resurrection flower"

they can be dried & pressed

then revived after being soaked

you can eat its roots, but seldom raw,

it tastes bitter taste and it resultant swelling

causes great discomfort like childbirth

Indian women boiled the root

mixing with meat or berries,

pulverizing & seasoning it

with deer fat & moss

molded into patties

and carried on hunting expeditions

or war parties


press this flower between pages

press it between your lips

pretend it was me after the lost time

revive me with your lips


get close to the ground


the roots speak of bitter years

the pink sunrise is pulverized in the raw

buffalo rustle as petticoats

I clamp tight this page, soak it with the missing

the thirst immediate & distant

The Sum of Every Strangeness

We are the sum of every strangeness

we do not understand

we are not what we think we are

we are not perfect

we defoliate and throw trash

or dump factory waste in water

and then a bloated whale beaches itself,

their stomach containing plastic

our cruelty is not camouflaged

we are not as good as we think

we are destructive

then light shows a blue jay

in the maple tree making a nest


Martin Willitts Jr is a retired Librarian living in Syracuse, NY. He has been nominated for 15 Pushcarts and 12 Best of the Net Awards. He is the winner of 2013 Bill Holm Witness Poetry Contest; 2014 Broadsided award; 2014 Dylan Thomas International Poetry Award; and, Rattle Ekphrastic Challenge, June 2015, Editor’s Choice. He has over 20 chapbooks, plus 11 full-length collections including How to Be Silent (FutureCycle Press, 2016). His poems have appeared in Blue Fifth Review, Kentucky Review, Perfume River Review, Broadkill Review, Bitter Oleander, Nine Mile Magazine, Comstock Review, Centrifugal Eye, Stone Canoe, and others.

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