person Tara Ballard, five poems

Tara Ballard is from Alaska. She currently lives in the Middle East where she and her husband teach university English courses. Her first collection, House of the Night Watch, won the Many Voices Project Prize in Poetry for 2016 and will be published by New Rivers Press in 2018. Her work can be found in The Bellingham Review, The Southampton Review, Salamander, and other literary magazines.


Chugach and Raven

Where come-summer leaves of birch trees
radiate sunlight like the juice of kiwi or lime,
and I hike daily the dirt road, potholed

and guarded by you
who invoke the music of water,
you who sing

thirty-three songs (black-feathered)
from the highest branches.
Where I am given permission

to hear the histories you keep,
beak snapping with each shift in epoch,
and I am (simply) an observer: grateful

for this time in which I am nothing
but one who hears
like the wind that tumbles

around you,
like the clouds that will come
tomorrow or the next day.

first published in Alaska Women Speak



Laughter tumbles from beyond
the Earth’s magnetosphere.

Gabriel knocks on my front door
to inform me that happiness is tall mountains.

He brings with him a breeze not from here.
My nightgown is blown against my legs.

I stand in the doorway,
listening. I stand in the doorway

listening, my nightgown blown
against my legs. A breeze not from here

is brought by Gabriel, who has spoken to many
in just one evening. He tells me

happiness is tall mountains.
He knocks twice upon my door.

Laughter tumbles from beyond
the Earth’s magnetosphere

in the less-hot hour of midnight,
and I wake to tell you everything.

first published in Chiron Review



Dressed in black, a circle
of women sip from cups

of bitter coffee. No one
speaks as evening takes

shape in what is now empty.
I tilt the porcelain demitasse,

and grounds drift
from thumb to index finger.

I mourn with the other wives,
back turned to my husband

who drinks of a different kettle,
remembers the same man.

first published in Sukoon


When a Place Becomes Holy

You pray surrounded
by red cedar planks and soft
breathing in a box
love-shaped shelves no different
from layered soil
organic wrapped in white
towels your skin beneath flushed
gloss with heat
hot rocks stir a quiet
hiss held tight by their neck-like frame
narrow guide
night outside is clear
stars keen words fall
to your lips
              and your body
sways to and fro like the flame
of a candle like
you are violin spruce
bow upon tree broken
by salt when you become
rope gathered and spun like straw
three strands wet
pulled broken and held
embraced by again that knowing
surrounded by red cedar planks
soft wood

first published in Alaska Women Speak


December Nocturne

The making-cold
of sky and invitation to prayer
in chorus tonight,
and my ears are full
of stars
early to dance:
wedding bands found in a field
by my grandfather
half a century ago,
thrown upward like lost teeth,
into a headscarf like sequins
over the city.

first published in Temenos


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