J.K. Winters (Western Voices 2020)

Exclusive: Western Voices, 2020: Edited by Scott Thomas Outlar
Bio: For many years J.K. has been a teacher of writing, literature and psychology; along the way, some of her own fiction, poetry and articles were published in professional journals, literary publications and online. She has also written a full-length play which was produced in Atlanta, Georgia in 2017. Website, blog and writing samples can be viewed at jkwintersauthor.com. Email her at jkwintersauthor@gmail.com

She spoke to me in a pastel voice of creamy butter:
“The color of a circle smells of daffodils,” she said,
“except the white ones which really don’t smell at all
because they have the stony stare of ghosts
hanging on a line to dry.” Her words tasted like summer
until she mentioned the ghosts and then the bones.
“Bare bones,” her winter words echoed in the snow,
 and they felt naked when I touched them.
“What is the sound of an idea?” I tell her I don’t know.

It’s second Friday, Mike is open
with echoes of Rumi and Rilke
—in jazzy juxtaposition—
the flesh of divinity dances
with the divinity of flesh.

Oh, the erotic ecstasy of thick thighs
and grandmother’s corn bread.

But the world is too much with
our precocious precious one,
her Words of Worth mourning
meanness and cows in cages,
her mother all-the-while
giddy with sad merriment.

Samson, you didn’t lose any strength
by cutting your hair: your world-weary lips
still spit out the staccato liquid language
that makes us gasp—and grasp—
at beauty in the shadows. Selah

Our hostess sets the table
with berries and lemonade.
Being a poet takes courage.
That’s why she reads her poem
from high school now, not then.

A regular stands, grips her cane.
With jerky motion, she makes her way
to the podium to offer a poetic confession:
I have Parkinson’s. We have known forever,
but for her to say it, out loud, to us…well…

His ponytail, suit and dress shoes are as crafted
as his words of yearning for the elusive feminine.
We ask, That lady on the lake, in the mist, who is she?
She is not a real girl, he tells us.

The guy in the paisley shirt
deadpans about the whiz-dumb
on bathroom walls and the colors of numbers.
His tone does not shift to signal the end,
So, we pause before we clap, cautious,
lest there is more. There isn’t.

Hippity Hop to a home school
where the teacher sleeps in late,
and Ghost Dad roams the halls
until epistaxis kills the Thanksgiving
turkey. Bricolage. Humor, skewed, dark.
He dares us to laugh. Some of us titter.

Manager of an independent bookstore:
erudite, she recites with Signature speed
titles of a score or more of children’s books,
and after each one, pleads, Read to me!

In an Indian cemetery 
“a stone is not just a stone.”
advises another in a wind-whisper voice.
What’s for breakfast at your B&B?
I want to ask. Salsa dancing on eggs?

On the second Friday of the month
you and so many others are here at  
Phoenix and Dragon, “hearts and souls
on a silver platter, “as Samson says.
The mic is open, and I am in a State of Grace:
I see you, I hear you, I love you.


What is the mystery of tea?
Elixir of bitterness and spice,
aromatic and astringent alchemy.
OpportuniTEA, a parable.
British black: bold civiliTEA.
Sassy sassafras. Insolent puriTEA.
Chamomile in camouflage
equals tranquiliTEA.
The tea breathes, and between breaths
we experience eterniTEA.
Can we slurp our way to God
in high tea ceremony?
Is oolong too long?
Harmonious, capricious, subtle,
sweet and bright. UniversaliTEA.
The mystery of tea is the mystery of me.

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