Orchid Story

by Ally Chase | Poetry | Spring 2021

Image by Katie Frevert

My grandmother told me a story  
about an orchid in her garden.  
She said the orchid is white,  
she said she does not water it. 
She does not move it into the sun, or away from the sun,
never from beneath the sprawling clarity of the kitchen window.
I said I don’t understand, she said she only touches the orchid
to finger the weight of its soft, dense petals. 

Everywhere she turns now, after fifteen years 
in the lush green of her home, there is an orchid.
Some hang suspended from the gnarled branches in her yard.
Some have put down roots in the dark Florida earth, and she
tends to these in a wide brimmed hat,  
bending gently to the soil beneath a solitary palm. 

These are the orchids which have allowed for her devotion,
yet she chose to tell me about the only one  
that receives nothing. I try to make sense:  
there are the orchids she must touch to keep alive,
and there is the one that refuses her hands.  
Together these hands are all my grandmother has to offer,
but somehow it is nothing for her to fold them together,
to accept the presence of wonder with ease.  

She expects the orchid to bloom because by growing,
it has created her faith. How can faith  
keep her hands from wringing over what she cannot give
this anomaly of nature? Instead she trusts that her eyes
see what she knows. She looks at this orchid—a glance
and then a glance away. She witnesses a miracle. 

But a sense of peace, like the white flower, feels so precarious.
Still the story doesn’t make sense, 
and I haven’t seen an orchid since my last visit. 
Now I can only watch through the phone as the miracle replaces
the central act of her hand. There in the window
is the orchid’s final reflection, and there is my grandmother,
ending a life she thought went on without her,  
just by sitting down to rest.


The Mathematician and the Ant.

by Desmond Hearne Morrey | Poetry | Spring 2021

Vincent Zhu, Crack (series)

I am following an ant, 
watching its shiny black carapace 
scuttle, (patriotically), into battle. 

I’ve read that they smell each other 
(or, whatever an ant’s understanding of smell might be)
and separate themselves from the enemy with olfactory banners.
I myself having no scent of war, 
am invisible. 

My friend tells me: 
“Spiders are fine, they 
don’t know 
that they’re creeping around 
on a creature (a person, 
a whole subjective unit) 
But centipedes 
will fuck you up.” 

The color of the world (on bright days)
differentiates things, and I find joy in their multiplicity.
The same light reflects, refracts, many times, many ways, 
and I touch these borders of brilliance, 
grasp and rip them from each other, and 
set them up in a little row. 
One thing, two things, three things…

A ladybug lands on a poem. I am 
fascinated and so 
I drop a cookie crumb to her. She 
finds it, tastes it, and 
the sugar is too sweet, 
too much, and she 
runs in circles over it. 
(I, on the other hand, 
have eaten the rest of the cookie) 

They say (my professors) 
that we must start with nothing (the empty set),
and then continue to add (and 
rephrase, and bound, and contain) itself,
and this is how we reach 
infinity. We start with one 
leaf, and find another 
and soon we have collected 
everything (and more).

If I flew away from here (on gossamer wings)
and turned back, would I see 
so many colors? The bright reds of 
autumn leaves, the grays and 
yellow lights of urbanity? 

I say 
that I walk across poems and 
do not know if the land I love 
is a creature, and do not know 
when one ends 
and two begins.  



by Madeleine Feola | Poetry | Spring 2021

Ava Chessum, Grace

the betta fish is regrowing his fins. they come back frayed and translucent, the slightest edge
shimmering the water around him. we had steeped him in antibiotics that turned the tank green, 
dredged the life from his pores. whatever was eating him alive. 

living is an ugly thing, I’ve learned. at the frayed ends of it you’re making phone calls and
buying medicine. paying hospital bills. 

oh god but it’s tremulous and yours. 

my life used to be large enough to drown in— a cup of blood, a pillar of salt. is this what getting
better feels like? cutting down the heavy flesh that killed you slowly, that made you, until you hit
the bone? 

these days I’m that kind of slender. I walk home in the dark, peering into the corner spaces of 
people who are not me. the cooks locking up, walking past the quiet shadows of tables and
chairs, the boyfriends waiting outside, awkward hands in their pockets. these things mean more
to me now—more than me, maybe, more than you.  



by Dorothy Levine | Poetry | Spring 2021

Ava Chessum, Lemons

Mama picks up maple leaves and ties stems together
the same motion used to tie my shoes and undo necklace knots
her rings shine against dry, freckled skin.
“Isn’t this cool?” She shows the gap between her teeth.
“Yes, very cool.” I smile.
I feel her love seeping through
as she points out each tree to identify.
She wants to plant knowledge in my head
so when I walk through these same trees
lonely and homesick
I know what is around me:
ginkgo, sweetgum, maple—a red one, not sugar—
horse chestnut.
“This one is called an Ohio buckeye,” I tell her.
We pick out two buckeyes 
one for her to take back on her plane
to rest on her nightstand and shrivel up to its hardened core
and one for me, to keep in a pocket until it’s forgotten.
But for now, she holds both in her palm.


tintin in tibet

by Jamie Weil | Poetry | Fall 2020

Nell Beck, four faces

now only, i 

am listening to “tintin in tibet.”
it’s autumn, and cooler than it was,
and phil elverum says, “you don’t exist / 
i sing to you, though.” 

he’s singing this to his wife, geneviève, 
who passed a few years ago,
just after their daughter was born.

phil’s songs are great missives
often written to his wife, or to the ether, 
or helios, or raven’s feathers;
he’ll skirt around the point,
but never quite arrive at it,
such that his ideas leak
in a sort of scattered melancholy. 

… it’s autumn. in the song, too, i think. 

now only, you 

are probably not thinking of me 
and certainly not singing
to me, or to anyone else.
maybe to yourself. 

the air is drier, and i
keep sneezing into my mask. 
can i write that so nonchalantly?

this is a moment i think we’ll remember,
which is a small devastation
like when i touch the place
where you kissed my neck, not intending to cry, 
or when i realize i’ll never 
quite discern between certain blues. 
“tintin in tibet” plays on loop, 

and now i’m aware it isn’t autumn after all.  

now only, we 

should have known; the lawns are free 
of leaves, and the date is apparent
to anyone with a fair grasp of things.
i sit on my stoop and share a look

with a black bird in our maple tree. phil sings, 
“standing in the front yard like an open 
wound / repeating ‘i love you,’ to who?”

and i get the sudden sense
that he’s somehow read my psyche,
or at least my poems, and then
i feel stupid for associating my loss with his. 

and then i just feel sorrow. 

behind me, the sun sets
in blankets of glare, falling
from a distant windowpane.
i don’t notice the sky change color;
blue, to blue, to blue.
can you live in the moment
when the moment is just begging 

to be passed through?
like this weather,
like each small devastation 
breaking across my neck; 
like each aching moment of 
“tintin in tibet,” and yet
i listen. 

i listen. 


… according to john

by Jamie Weil | Poetry | Fall 2020

Lucy Kaminsky, Time is not a clock

i don’t believe in divinity.
this much you should know, not just
because you always ​know,
but because i often laugh
about sunday school
and how quick the gospels
became cyclical and dull.

                if you will forgive my hypocrisy,
i had a moment today
when i did believe
in something somewhat otherworldly.

it was late afternoon, and your hands were shaking
from the little rest you allow;
                from mixed blessings and turns of silence.

in concern i reached across the table
to hold your shaking hand in mine, and,
as i did, a light—from your screen
                or from the ceiling—caught my eye,
                                and then caught yours,
                                                and i fell in.

                what i am saying is,
i’ve been here before,
i’ve had my fits of faith,
but never so well-phrased,
so evangelical:

                and it will fade
                ever impermanent,
                                and it will return,
                 and i will fall again, into that pool
                 of delicate waves:
                                the lightlike water.

Extramural Affairs

Grocery Run

by Aidan Walker and Jacob Hall | Extramural Affairs | Web Exclusive

Wilder Voice’s inaugural Extramural Affairs piece, a hypertext poem.

Oberlin is a literary community unto itself. But we exist in a larger constellation of collegiate authors, editors, and publications; Wilder Voice’s new “Extramural Affairs” series is intended to cultivate this inter-institutional network of writers. In this web-exclusive department, we will be sharing an eclectic mix of nonfiction, fiction, and poetry from peers at other colleges. After all, why wait to discover your new favorite writer until after they’ve graduated?

—The Editors


Grocery Run is a hypertext poem made out of 18 original parts and eight excerpts taken from texts found around the internet. You can navigate between the different parts by clicking the links—there are hundreds of ways to read the poem.  

This piece is just one part of, a project we have been working on for two years. There are 44 hypertext pieces up so far, each experimenting with different aspects of the webpage as a visual and verbal space. They are coded using HTML, Javascript, and CSS.  

Read Grocery Run here.

—Aidan and Jacob

Aidan Walker is a senior at Reed College. Jacob Hall is a junior at William & Mary. They both hope you are doing well and thank you for taking the time to read this.  



by Gillian Ferguson | Poetry | Spring 2020

Image by Eva Sturm-Gross

I miss my home.
The familiar sound of the trains
Who lulled me to sleep.
The perennial blue eyes of my best friend
Who I almost fell in love with.

It was never that way growing up, of course.
From preschool to graduation,
Dreaming on the corner of 9th and Summer,
Sitting together after school, near the bus stop.

One night.
After we came home from college
She fell asleep
After five hours of catching up
She was beautiful
And I wanted to kiss her.
My startling love for her
Expanding beyond friendship
Tumbling into the soft light of her living room
Strung out like a juicy secret
Momentarily perennial.

But I already knew
I would never be her type.
Then the sound of a train
Made her lashes flutter open.
And I still miss her.


The Bittersweetness

by Jamie Weil | Poetry | Fall 2019

Jack Spector-Bishop, Dog Days

take that tranquility, there,  
                 that heat before the clothes are folded 
                                  that makes the cold air sweeter.

take it into your arms unfurled take me 
into your arms, that tranquility 
               that weakness upon waking, 
      not knowing where you are, 
                        but knowing

that heat before you touch the floor, before 
             you are unfolded, recklessly, 
                        in a rush to make amends with the morning. 

             into your arms again
             and again 
             that weakness upon waking from a dream 
                          of folding clothes early in winter. 

                                                    tranquility, take me 
                                                        so that i may know    the bittersweetness 
                                                                                                         in taking.


Organ Pump

by Jamie Weil | Poetry | Fall 2019

Photo by Vu M. Nguyen

a sketch of melody 
perhaps, not quite 
skin and bones.
more like powder
or the tone of the sea 
on a cloudy morning. 
you can’t quite 
grasp it slips through
your fingers
and into your eyes 
like gold flake;
a solar eclipse.