Congratulations to Iris Jamahl Dunkle for winning third place for poetry in the 2020 WNBA Writing Contest!
You can read “Sinkhole” below.
Driveway washed out. We are done
drifting from place to blown place.
A silver boat lies like a question on
the side of the road. River keeps rising.
It is our heritage to continue through:
dust storm, drought, fire, flood, mudslide, earthquake.
The woods around our house lean in listening
for what the seasons have to offer up.
When you re-route a river; re-stitch a
seam. Something breaks.
My grandmother sat close as her radio
spit hate. Even a small spark can ignite.
When you live this close to a river, this
close to the woods, this close to a faultline
better know your way out, fast. How will I
pack all her hate? Once saw a river stitched
into the ceiling. Blue, silver sequins
snaking across; as if change could be caught.
This time we will dig out. Our mouths
Will be dry, stuffed with feathers.
Second time the rain washed our driveway out
the brick-red teeth of the road were revealed.
Is this my inheritance? Owls don’t come
out in rain, so the sound of our sentinel is gone.
Red bricks cemented together under
three feet of river rock we’ve shoveled on.
Once the previous inhabitants came
back to sit with the stone-jawed creek.
They never revealed their source. Or why they’d
hidden statues of Greek goddesses in the walls.
My grandmother could be a low morning
fog that clings to the trembling redwoods.
Or, she could be the minerals beneath
soil that stubbornly hold this whole thing down.
Now that the owls have gone mute. Now that
all we built is washing away: gravel, mud,
the weight of what we’ve been collecting—
My tongue has gone heavy. Too many stones
washing down. Now that the skeleton (blood
red bricks) has shown its form. Our underneath.
The rain will keep coming whether we live
or die. We will hold our story down.
Iris Jamahl Dunkle
Iris Jamahl Dunkle is an award-winning poet, literary biographer, and essayist, whose academic and creative work challenges the western myth of progress by examining the devastating impact that agriculture and over-population have had, and continue to have, on the North American West. Taking an ecofeminist bent, her writing also challenges the American West’s androcentric recorded history by researching the lives of women. As Poet Laureate of Sonoma County, she witnessed first-hand the devastating 2017 wildfires. These fires were the catalyst for her latest collection of poetry West : Fire : Archive and her investigation of her family’s migration to California during the Dust Bowl. She has published four poetry books, including West: Fire: Archive, The Center for Literary Publishing, 2021, and the biography Charmian Kittredge London: Trailblazer, Author, Adventurer. Dunkle teaches at Napa Valley College and is Poetry Director at the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference.
View the list of all of the 2020 WNBA Writing Contest winners.