Tag Archives: Dianne Stepp

Patrimony
by Dianne Stepp

Siletz River, 1948

My dad thinks the river is his, or he is the river’s.

He ferries us upstream on the tide most weekends after the war,
his knee on the tiller, that half-moon sailing from the quick of his thumb

as he slips his tackle into the current.
He lifts one finger to his lips to say silence in the boat,

and the bank slips by, an open window to another life—
muskrat, voles, the dark mouths of their burrows.

Alders and willows dip their leaves into the stream.
Around a bend, a startle of wings, the cries of the kingfisher bird.

The morning’s mist rises over the river’s silver face
and I take it in, filling my lungs with the sounds the river breathes.

The river opens a space for us as we go,
the vee behind the boat fanning to show where we’ve been.

My dad motions me to the bow to watch for snags and deadheads.
Teaches me to flag with my arms,

and I become first boat hand,
my mother keeping watch over my brother playing with his toys.

At the riffles I remove my shoes and pull the boat across the gravel bar
so we can reach his favorite holes upstream.

Tackle, rod, reel, line, lure. Coho, cutthroat, blueback.
The river becomes my life’s lexicon.

Gull, heron, jay. The thrash of spawn.
Riffle, sandbar, salmonberry. Minnows in the shallows.

Meander. Loop, bend, bank, the trill of a creek.
This is what my dad will give me.

Until I wrote these words, I didn’t know it.

 

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 22, Issue 1.

Dianne SteppA retired counselor, Dianne Stepp lives with her husband in Portland, Oregon. Her poems have appeared in a variety of literary journals and anthologies including High Desert Journal, TAMSEN.org, Comstock Review, Clackamas Literary Review, and Cries of the Spirit. A graduate of the Warren Wilson MFA Program in Poetry, she is a recipient of an Oregon Literary Arts Fellowship and author of a chapbook, “Half-Moon of Clay.”

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Hunger
by Dianne Stepp

after In Memory’s Kitchen: A Legacy
from the Women of Terezin

They dream of yeast and goose fat, dough plaited to dough,
the old women of Theresienstadt.

Linzer torte, pirogen, goulash
with noodles.

Under the dead stars,
beside the stunned windows,

the blank belly of the stove.

They argue about hazelnuts in chocolate cake,
whether ground or chopped.

Whose version of coffee caramels.

From freezing bunks at night, they lament Krieg—
the food substitutes of war—

ersatz coffee, honey, egg optional in the strudel.

Someone calls for her favorite galantine of chicken,
garnished with caviar and paprika.

They press poems between the recipes. Letters,
Yahrzeit notes for the dead,

thread the pages to a book, hide it like a stolen loaf.

The daughter into whose hands years later
a stranger presses this parcel

trembles to touch it—

cries of apricot, apples, the small mouths of berries.
 

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 18, Issue 2.

Dianne SteppA retired counselor, Dianne Stepp lives with her husband in Portland, Oregon. Her poems have appeared in a variety of literary journals and anthologies including High Desert Journal, TAMSEN.org, Comstock Review, Clackamas Literary Review, and Cries of the Spirit. A graduate of the Warren Wilson MFA Program in Poetry, she is a recipient of an Oregon Literary Arts Fellowship and author of a chapbook, “Half-Moon of Clay.”

See all items about Dianne Stepp

Visit Dianne Stepp’s contributors page.