Features, Poems

Jennifer Bullis: “Directions to Pt. Rupture”

Jennifer Bullis, the inaugural winner of Poetry Northwest‘s contest, The Pitch, writes of her winning poem:

I knew I would love writing to Rebecca Hoogs’s prompt, which calls for re-grounding in the language of physical place.  I looked forward to tracing, verbally, one of the routes familiar to me:  the way through sagebrush to a pond in the gully below my house where, as a six year old, I looked for frogs; or the way on horseback through Reno’s outskirts, where, as an adolescent, I’d ride into the foothills to find shade among pines; or the way  up logging roads above the Nooksack River outside Van Zandt, Washington, to the washout at Skookum Creek where, in August, you can be surrounded by tiny purple butterflies.

The poem that eventuated, however, had a source far different from personal memory or physical place.  “Directions to Pt. Rupture,” it turns out, was an entirely imagined piece that found its inspiration in language, in the mouth’s commerce with air—in that particular set of vocalizations produced when we stop and resume a sound using (first) our two lips and (next) our tongues against the back of our teeth.  The idea to use “pt” words came from my writing group, a lively cadre of Bellingham poets called On Assignment, when we tasked ourselves to compose poems highlighting that pair of letters.  I thank Jeanne Yeasting, of that group, for the borrowed phrases “paired plosives” and “slept close.”

Directions to Pt. Rupture
Jennifer Bullis

At the junction, opt
for the left, or the right,

as you are apt.  Avoid
abrupt swervings, as from earlier

relationships gone septic.
I myself, inept at love,

am less than agnostic—say,
an interested skeptic.  Yet

who among us has not kept
paired plosives within

the heart (or at least slept close)?
In case of rapture, unperson

your car with care, pen a cryptic
kleptography:  “Taken.”

Jennifer Bullis, originally from Reno, earned a Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Davis, and has taught writing and literature at Whatcom Community College in Bellingham, Washington, for 14 years.  Her poems have appeared in Natural Bridge, Comstock Review, Pontoon / Floating Bridge Review, and Umbrella.

Our second writing contest, featuring Zach Savich’s timely Pitch, is open for submissions through January 15, 2011!