Welcome, Elizabeth Colen!

This month we are featuring the poets and writers who have signed with us in the past twelve months—all writers who submitted work during one of our two annual open reading periods.

Today we bring you Elizabeth Colen, whose prose poetry novel What Weaponry was accepted earlier this summer and will be released next August.

Colen_photo1-2About the Author

Elizabeth J. Colen is the author of poetry collections Money for Sunsets (Steel Toe Books, 2010) and Waiting Up for the End of the World (Jaded Ibis Press, 2012), flash fiction collection Dear Mother Monster, Dear Daughter Mistake (Rose Metal Press, 2011), long poem / lyric essay hybrid The Green Condition (Ricochet Editions, 2014), and Your Sick (Jellyfish Highway, 2016), co-written with Carol Guess and Kelly Magee. She teaches at Western Washington University.


In this land time stops, white bird hovering in the pre-dawn. Unseen fawns high step the wet grass. And we, feet and shins bathed in shallow seas of scrub marvel at the complete dark. “There’s nothing,” you whisper, and then say nothing more. I know you mean the world has closed down its doors. We haven’t slept but tired’s come back to wild elation the way all things circle back to meet their opposites. The way I sometimes become you again. And through bare toes feeling for the towpath, and that stab of electric light moved on by our motion, we find the neighbor’s barn door. No light in neighbor’s kitchen, no horse sounds from the yard. Only the crickets and your breathing, pale face posed, the gun still in your hand.
In the sink, the leafy tops of carrots, curve of molded onion, the dog hair and red mud you rinsed off your hands. We’re supposed to see stars tonight, the Perseids, but you’re tired. I wanted to be gone by morning, but can’t shake the headache and refuse to drive blind. The distance between my face and the window, between the hot water in my hands and the fogged glass hums. I turn off the water and the space still hums and the glass stays wet with the heat. In the shed the bulb light snaps off and I watch you cover the yard with your anger, hands down at your sides. They don’t really move when you walk, not when you’re like this. And then you look up. There was a moment in Vegas when I really believed you knew how neon worked. Gas stranded in a tube, something about numbers. Then you lost everything we had, also about numbers, including the fifty you made from selling my watch. The man in the pawnshop thought we were criminals, like everyone else, working at ruining lives. He held a toothpick in his mouth so long, the sogged wood wouldn’t leave his lip when he spit. We won’t ever be like him. His smoke yellow hair. Night-driving, no money to pay the hotel. When the car stalled in the desert we saw stars, they were like this, falling and new.


On Location


The process, location, and influences engaged during the writing of this manuscript are inseparable. In August I take the train. From Seattle to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Newton, Kansas and back again. Generally I take books I don’t mind losing, trade paperbacks and literary journals I will leave wherever I finish them, on park benches, in train stations, coffee shops, friends’ homes. A lighter load on the way home. One summer I brought only one book—my favorite: Richard Siken’s Crush—to read. And I did, over and over again. What Weaponry was written not as a response to Crush or an imitation of any kind, but in the environment of it, in the thrall and music and mood of it. I did crosswords, talked to strangers, read the newspaper, read Crush, and wrote. About 90% of What Weaponry’s rough draft was composed on those two trains—the Coast Starlight and Southwest Chief—and mostly in the tiny sleeper car. The Superliner Roomette. And in the year that followed, I reworked the material with my dog resting dangerously underfoot, nose against a desk chair leg.

The Southwest Chief’s long stop in Albuquerque