Aug 112013

Nance cover art

Four gorgeous poems this morning arrive to you from NC, the first four poems of Nance Van Winckel‘s brand new poetry collection Pacific Walkers, the central poem being an inquiry into the body of an unidentified dead man washed up on the bank of the Spokane River, the man’s body itself becoming an inquiry, “a small inquiry unfit for the big answer.” In a flash, in a phrase, the poet has told you of what all life and art consist: we are all small inquiries unfit for the big answer, but the small inquiry and the big answer fuse in the poem, and the poet accords the unidentified dead man a signal honour, knighting him with the epithet “Little Prince of the Reigning Question.” The poems are poignant, raw, mysterious and lovely.

…Once you were a bud
in someone’s belly. A swim, a sleep,

then to crown your way out. Keep
mum. Keep it to yourself, Little Prince

of the Reigning Question,
the would-you-do-it-all-again
there there, now now.






Signing On with The Daily Sun

Nearing a thousand words a minute, I can type
to your health. I can input a print that’s fit
to all. Can get across baby without
a single b. I can keep my prayer mat
under wraps. Ditto the armband. I have the facts,
you have the contracts. Sure, you can change
my name to Lance in the byline.

Like jerking off Band-Aids, I can rip away
calendar pages so fast, no one will even know
we’re over the past. Day in, day out, I can
make them play along with my playing
along, can make them believe decedent,
can disseminate and disguise at the same time
what’s face up, fetid, gnawed at by weasels.

Just. The. Facts. I am like you. Or passing
through you like a taco. Easily rolled up
to swat a pesky moth. Spread wide to accept
your bounty of trout guts. Quick to appear,
pass the verbiage, and disappear.
I can stay anon. I can live anon.
I can keep anon in my heart.


Last Address

What gold flitter has made of your ear
a hive? Clouds tug loose a last dream

and now the rainfall bears down
your secrets. The question’s not

if the river had its way with you,
spit you out as a small inquiry

unfit for the big answer. No,
the question won’t pertain to tattoos

or unmatchable DNA, but to what
world, under what sun, in what situ

we go on finding each you, each you,
the not-missed, the never missing.


We stand at the foot of you.
Bees and swallows rustle the grass

around half flesh, half bone, half
here, half gone. Dot of earth: nothing

owed or owned. Once you were a bud
in someone’s belly. A swim, a sleep,

then to crown your way out. Keep
mum. Keep it to yourself, Little Prince

of the Reigning Question,
the would-you-do-it-all-again
there there, now now.


Found on the bank of the Spokane River at approximately 2200 W. Falls Street. Adult Caucasian male. This male was 5 feet 11 inches in height and weighed approximately 161 pounds. His hair was dark brown or possibly black. Clothing worn: a pair of black lace up boots with a brand name listed as “CORCORAN,” a pair of black socks, a pair of light blue denim pants with a brand name listed as “RUSTLER,” a pair of red slightly meshed under shorts, a dark colored T-Shirt with the size listed as medium and a name brand of “EDDIE BAUER.” Dental identification information obtained, no match found. Fingerprints unobtainable.
………Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Records



When the intern asks why
hadn’t the animals eaten this man
the river months ago washed up,
the examiner numbers
his answers.

An order. Of course. Most
to least. The day animals
vs. the night ones. If six,
thorns. If thy right eye
offendeth. I doodle.

My sketch in the place of
reason: a moustache on Mr.
Numbers. If three magpies
flap away. Therefore an
ambiguity of eye color.

Sketch it: how weird,
the moustache needs
a matching beard. Hair
today. Eight trumpet vines.
Twelve solstice winds.

What had he gone by?
My reason. God’s hard.
If one. If the earthly
life. The this life. His
other car was a train.



His Other Car Was a Train

My tapping for him
against the Corona. Ding
at the end of the line.
The trestle bridge,
a light table with a lean
negative him. The fording
of, the fire in the belly of.
Getting the outside air
coming in. Sleet as rain’s
sequel, and anxious
were the trees and good
the green fields pressing forward
and how great the distance.
Boxcars with zero sans serif,
with only space—space
maybe going somewhere.
Somewhere, how can we
leave it now?

Nance cover art


new nance pix2Nance Van Winckel is the author of six collections of poems, including After A Spell, winner of the 1999 Washington State Governor’s Award for Poetry, and the recently released Pacific Walkers (U. of Washington Press, 2013). She is the recipient of two NEA Poetry Fellowships and awards from the Poetry Society of America, Poetry, and Prairie Schooner. Recent poems appear in The Pushcart Prize Anthology, The Southern Review, Poetry Northwest, Crazyhorse, Field, and Gettysburg Review.

She is also the author of four collections of linked short stories and a recent recipient of a Christopher Isherwood Fiction Fellowship. Boneland, her newest book of fiction, is just out with U. of Oklahoma Press. Her stories have been published in AGNI, The Massachusetts Review, The Sun, and Kenyon Review. Nance’s photo-collage work has appeared in Handsome Journal, The Cincinnati Review, Em, Dark Sky, Diode, Ilk, and Western Humanities Review. New visual work and an essay on poetry and photography appear in Poetry Northwest and excerpts from a collage novel are forthcoming in Hotel Amerika and The Kenyon Review Online. Click this link to see a collection of Nance Van Winckel’s mash-ups of poetry and photography, which she calls photoems. She is Professor Emerita in Eastern Washington University’s graduate creative writing program, as well as a faculty member of Vermont College of Fine Arts low-residency MFA program. She lives near Spokane, Washington with her husband, the artist Rik Nelson. Her personal web page is here.


  4 Responses to “Pacific Walkers | Poems — Nance Van Winckel”

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you. These are as haunting as the Pho-toems. (But why do I say thanks when you started my Sunday morning with an ache?)

  2. My favorite from “Briefing”:
    “What had he gone by?
    My reason. God’s hard.
    If one. If the earthly
    life. The this life. His
    other car was a train.” Amazingly and hauntingly beautiful. Every word. Thank you, Nance Van Winckel. I look forward to reading more.

  3. No, thank YOU, super smart and oh-so-anonymous reader. I know you’re over your ache now.
    And thank you, Sir Douglas. I really like how you cropped in on the cover photo and I so appreciate what you say in the intro.

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