We All Lived Here

About the Project

At EWU we are proud of the accomplishments of our alumni, and want to share and promote their work as much as we can. We are also interested in giving prospective students a sense of what living in Spokane while pursuing their MFA might be like. So we are launching this new project called We All Lived Here. On this page we will be publishing work from our alumni that speaks to the idea of home while living in Spokane, or relates to the city in some way. We will be collecting these pieces for an anthology that will potentially be published by our very own Willow Springs Books. We hope that you enjoy these pieces as much as we do, and that you will check out the archive for more. *If you are an EWU alum who wishes to submit work for this project, please click here for details, and make sure to use this link to sign up for our alumni mailing list!

graduation 2014

Poetry from EWU MFA Alum Ruth Williams

October's WALH post comes to us from Ruth Williams. Ruth Williams is the author of two poetry collections, Flatlands (Black Lawrence Press, 2018) and Conveyance (Dancing Girl Press, 2012). Her poetry has appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, jubilat, Cimarron Review, Pleiades, Third Coast, Fourteen Hills and Faultline among others. She has also published creative nonfiction in South Loop Review and DIAGRAM and her scholarly work on women’s literature has appeared in Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, The Journal of Popular Culture and Michigan Feminist Studies. In 2011-2012, she was a Fulbright scholar in Seoul, South Korea where she researched U.S.-Korea relations and interviewed Korean women poets Kim Hyesoon, Jeongrye Choi, and Kim Seung-hee. In 2013, she graduated with a PhD in English and Creative Writing from the University of Cincinnati; currently, she is an Assistant Professor of English at William Jewell College. You can find links to her writing and interviews at www.ruthcwilliams.com.

Enjoy two poems by Ruth Williams below.

Spokane, Washington

Spokane is the kind of place you go to after you’ve killed your whole family and want to give yourself quietly over to a new life. A small city that acts like a big one: where you can walk the busy streets and still be hiding, your old life going gray and diffuse with each step. An air of anonymity lingers like beige over faces, buildings, and homes—a casual brown that distracts no one’s eyes.  Sometimes, when I’m walking on the quiet streets after dark, I feel as if I am wearing headphones, light-headed and distracted, a fuzzy image of myself. With nothing but the music and the air, it feels as if my life is simply playing out in front of me. I imagine that this peaceful, hollowed feeling is exactly the way the reel man in those old theaters must have felt. Watching the movies from his small room, peering at the screen through a small window, he already knows how it will end. You change the reels, it starts over. The murderer walks the streets a free man, the theater sits in a stilled hush. He lets the film play through.

11th Avenue: In The Exact Middle

1. September Storm

Like Doppler radar,
kids scatter in bright patterns
across the lawn.

Their sides heave,
umbrellas flapping,
open and closed,
open and closed.

Screams erupt—delight, desire,
or the tension of this hangnail weather.

In the sky, the edged energy
of protruded irritation,
a red crust rising
on the periphery of a tired eye.

2. December Dusk

The wintering necks of trees
slash against the sky.
On the top floor, I shiver.

Tapping windowsills
for cold air, my finger gnarls
to a witch’s cane.

Down the hall, a couple fights.
Their yells angle under
my doorway.  I drowse the seeps.

The microwave ticks and ticks
while the woman weeps.

December’s a cold bitch.
In this bleak light,
even milk won’t get warm.

When the man slams the door,
I slit my blinds.  Many shuttered lips.
Down the stairs, his feet punch,
one by one.

The woman’s muffled cries sound
like the sky’s low sob of snow.

Outside, kids recede.
Pull up from sidewalks, front yards,
slip indoors. Snails sucked
into shells.

All down the street, silence gorges,
feasting on the chill.

3. August Cooling

Purple-rimmed clouds
retain heat until after nine,
a sky of velvet-lined gloves.

Kids stay up late, bodies
vaulted in quicksilver.

They swagger and swear.
Try on an older menace.

Across the lawn, yells pop:
Fire or die!

The glassy marbles
of their shouts clatter
to the end of sound’s register.

I cool to my chair, wait
drift out,

a stain smudged gently
into night.