In her review, “Journeys Into Foreign Terrain,” Barbara Goldberg writes,

“Willis, who teaches at George Washington University and received her MFA from Warren Wilson College, is at the peak of her craft. Hers is a big book, with big themes, resonating with allusions to the Bible and Greek tragedy.”




She’s let herself go, they’re saying,

as if her self were a balloon

loosed over the street, its string fraying,

or like milk in a hot room

turned to curds. As has her flesh—

and true, her back teeth are missing,

her lipstick’s less than fresh

on her worn mouth (& not from kissing),

her roots have grown out, & her scent’s

the musk of her own skin. This kind

of self-forgetfulness, of a self spent,

in a girl would be a sign

of self-harming rage. It’s another thing

in a woman her age who has only one fight,

it’s come down to that: to find

a self to hold on to, & use it use it use it.

in The Southern Poetry Review 52:1 Summer 2014


Where you could get a latte served

to you in a thick white cup, an animal cracker

and a spoon set in the saucer,

and, sinking into an soft sofa, could lose

yourself like all of us splashing sparrow-like

in our private pools of wi-fi—

she’s opted for Persian Nectar,

offered by the nice young man. She expected

blue as opals, shot

with pink and violet, small fires.

But it’s the peaches of Paradise she gets,

perfumed with bergamot,

Sa’di’s Gulistan, a spring morning,

attar-gul in whiffs in the walled garden.

The kingly hoopoe hoots

to a nightingale chanting in the

branches of a jasmine, tulips nodding

in a breezy dance, a pool,

its fountain splashing droplets

in languid streams, roped pearls in sunlight,

the sheen of the turtle-dove…

Will she find the Beloved? She tips

the glass to her lips, closes her eyes and swallows

all and nothing that is not there.

                                                              in Politics & Prose’s District Lines Vol. II, Spring 2014