Afternoon Sky, Harney Desert, Lincoln Press, November 2017

by Ann Staley 

Ann Staley's third collection of poems, Afternoon Sky has three sections. Prayers & Dreams, The Past, The Here And Now. Life is getting simpler and shorter, Ann said when I asked about it. And then we both laughed out loud at this sobering duo of truths.

The title poem is based on a posatcard image, a painting done by Frederick Childe Hassam when he visited Oregon and that east side desert. Ann has never seen anything in Harney County, nor traveled there. She's imagined the entire scene using a U.S. Forest Service map for the accurate detail. Ann's brother, Jed, appears in this poem, too. Their conversation is entirely fictional. Ann sees herself as a truth-teller, and she is, but she also realizes that even a memory is one more invention of the truth, altered every time it is recalled. This collection includes a poem about the Department of Housing and Urban Development, several elegies, poems about research and pain, the weather (mostly rain!), and a lengthy list of poems Ann might have written or may write in the future. In a poem dedicated to her older brother, the poet says, Living is often harder than dying. If you haven't felt that way yourself, you probably don't want to read these poems.