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Joanne the Poet - The Poetry of Joanne M. Clarkson

“Omens and Totems” in Spring 2024 Online Issue of Slant

My poem, “Omens and Totems,” is in the current (Spring 2024) online issue of Slant. You can read the whole beautiful journal at: www.uca.edu/sll/slant/. This poem originated in a dream. Dreams are fertile fields for inspiration. I keep a notebook in the bathroom so if I see a powerful image or hear a word while I am sleeping, I can write it down immediately when I awake without disturbing Jim! Here is my poem:

Omens and Totems

I have this nightmare

where I am asked by the storm

within the wind to name

the birds. Each of them.

And I am shamed by my meager

attempt at sparrow and

wren. There are too many

and in my sleep crows shift

into a handful of starling

shadow. It is as if a species

became each individual feature,

none of them true. Each

beloved relationship shattered

since my heart studied

the wrong wing.

My friend makes dream catchers

from chicken feathers. And twine

and seeds the colors of rain.

At night pilgrims fly through them.

I hang one from my head board

reach for my childhood robins.

Drift into the time when I was

so new to this world

I thought I was tasked

with giving the birds their names.

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