W. F. Lantry

Angus McDonald


She dreams of houses she had never known
or if she’d known them, dreams of hidden rooms
she never had imagined while she lived
beneath the curved, familiar roof. Within
their walls, sometimes, in hidden cabinets,
she finds lost objects: wands or rosaries

or bracelets whose inscriptions have been worn
through years of use to nothing readable.
And yet, while fingering their surfaces,
she still remembers what was written there
and hears the words within her mind, as if
no time had passed since each of them was lost,

as if the voice who read them first to her
were audible again, and present, as
she closes now the clasp around her wrist,
and rediscovering the joy she knew
when she first put it on, she starts to sing
within her dream, but in this darkened room

beside her, I can somehow hear her song,
and listening, can almost see her arm
encircled by a gold inscription, as
closing the drawer, she turns to me, and light
surrounds her as she walks, in memory,
or in this room we’ve built together here.

Six Thousand Steps

I’ve built her many things: crafted a bed,
white wood and copper, canopied, and made
some floor-to-ceiling storage cabinets,
precision cut with saws, finished by hand-
but these are almost nothing. She regrets
the kitchen isn’t done. And they all fade
compared to work a man did for his wife

in Sichuan Province. Gossip and strife
made them elope. They fled the little town
and lived unsheltered in the countryside
until he built a thatch house, where they planned
to live on what the mountain could provide.
A thunderstorm changed everything, knocked down
a year’s work in one day. They found a cave

far up the slope. It wasn’t much, but gave
uncertain peace. A tiger’s visit drove
them further up the hill, and there they found
a level place for building, fertile land,
and clay for kiln-dried bricks. Baked tiles crowned
the house he built beside a laurel grove
where framed hives supplied honey they could sell.

But on her way to gather herbs, she fell.
He swore he’d make the path safe, and unknown
to her, he started work. A sharpened blade
his chisel. A stone hammer. Rough work spanned
a decade. Two. Through daily work, he made
a staircase to the gorge from living stone:
six thousand steps, each with a level tread.


Do we possess the rose? Or is it bought
with currency or charm, inventive words,
strong hands or supplications? Can we tear
with one swift motion blossoms from their canes
and still preserve the gifts sunlight and air,
combined with water, lavish? Do we bare
our unprotected skin only to thorns,

or should we cultivate all that adorns
roses and us, plant bare roots, water in
amended soil, lightly fertilize,
and check them every day until spring rains
bring rough new growth? In April improvise
a bamboo trellis? Should we then begin
to clip fresh sprays, arrange them in a vase

for indoor forcing? No. It’s best to lace
those canes up through their trellis, let them grow
as rampantly as unpruned climbers will
if no well-meaning gardener restrains
the ardor of their blossoms. Just sit still,
exist among them. Watch, and they will show,
in opening, the ecstasy you sought.

Sailing Stones

The unimagined weight of sunburnt air
compresses, below sea level, all winds
and traps this heat in incandescent wheels,
spinning above the boron flats and salt
strewn plains of painted clay. Nothing reveals
what’s underneath, dry geysers, salt fountains
of unknown origin. No waters flow,

no springs, no river traveling below
this salt-crust landscape, where a sailing stone
moves silently across the sun-caked earth
without visible force. Rounded basalt
or cubes of dolomite, whose greatest worth
is mystery: their impulse is unknown,
but we can see the track, measure its length,

and marvel at the unrevealed strength –
enough to move a stone no man could lift,
across the valley floor, marking its trace
always in silence, underneath the vault
of constellations. Some have called this place
magnetic, others say the faultlines shift,
and some believe unnoticed sheets of ice

pick up the stones and fling them, like cast dice,
across the desert valley floor. I know
only what I have seen: the shadows cast,
marking the progress of the brittle spalt
of hillsides, give some movement in this vast
unmoving silence, where even the slow
progress of stones reflects a whispered prayer.

W.F. Lantry, a native of San Diego, received his Maîtrise from L’Université de Nice and holds a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Houston. Recent honors include the National Hackney Literary Award in Poetry, CutBank Patricia Goedicke Prize, Crucible Editors’ Poetry Prize, Lindberg Foundation International Poetry for Peace Prize (in Israel), Atlanta Review International Publication Prize, and in 2012 the Old Red Kimono and Potomac Review Poetry Prizes. His publication credits encompass print and online journals in more than twenty countries on five continents, a chapbook, The Language of Birds (Finishing Line 2011), and a forthcoming full-length collection, The Structure of Desire (Little Red Tree 2012). He currently works in Washington, DC. and is a contributing editor of Umbrella Journal. “Songe,” will appear in The Structure of Desire.

W.F. Lantry’s Website

W.F. Lantry Poet Spotlight at THIS Literary Magazine

W.F. Lantry at Cha: An Asian Literary Journal

W.F. Lantry Interview at Potomac Review

W.F. Lantry at Amazon/Finishing Line Press

3 responses to “W. F. Lantry”

  1. kathleen, i always look forward to each new artist and poet you pair together. the two together rise to the Nth degree. bill- lovely poetry. esp like “wands or rosaries”. 

  2. Linda Simoni-Wastila says:

    Lovely pairings. The paintings evocative, the poems superlative. Peace…

  3. Kathleen Kirk says:

    So glad you are enjoying the poetry, the pairings! I love my job!

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