For the next few weeks, we are sharing writing that happened during AWA’s weeklong marathon of writing workshops, Write Around the World. This is one way we are celebrating the AWA-certified workshop leaders & writers who joined together to raise money in support of AWA. Thank you to those who shared their voices in each workshop and especially to those who have offered their words to be shared in this space. If you’re inspired by our work and would like to be part of the fundraiser, please donate!

Write Around the World with Amherst Writers & Artists

Writing from Maureen B. Jones’ Writing Full Tilt Workshops in Amherst, Massachusetts

No Bigger than a Thin Curved Stick

I first thought she was a boy
wearing skinny pants hidden
beneath an orange floating tee-shirt
until I saw a hump
looming large on her back.

When she turned her head
around I saw a wrinkled
face, one that belonged
to another country–a country
once torn by war.

Bent in half
her body
spoke of a lifetime
of toiling
in the rice fields.

No bigger than
a thin curved stick
she kept on walking
through the vacant hall
of an American mall.

—Catherine Iselin

*

The Unknown World

If you stand at the Athabasca River
you will know that you do not know.
It goes so fast your heart will want to leap
like a passionate salmon, but you hesitate,
wondering if this is the right place
or the right kind of salmon.
That is the beginning.
You enter, and when you do,
you come up against your
own unfilled spaces. Will you go over
the edge as the water fall comes upon you?
Will you cycle back to dizzying
frozen peaks? Will you descend to
depths and understand that time
is a vortex? Your heart paddles valiantly
despite a missing middle valve.
Did you know anatomy before
giving it a go? Did you study currents or
water viscosity as temperature drops?
The Athabasca takes your breath,
so the question you should be asking
is whether you know mouth to mouth
or the miracle of gills. Choose carefully,
but don’t make an informed decision.
As you go under, understand
refracted light. Pay attention
to impulses. Do you become
what you have never been?

—Maureen Buchanan Jones

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