Pacific Northwest Retreat

By Sterling Warner, EVC English Professor Emeritus

From the Evergreen foothills in San Jose, California to the Olympic Mountains near Union, Washington, my exodus from higher education proved difficult initially, but the right move at the best time.

As some of you might recall, I retired following the fall 2017 semester. Disgusted by the completion agenda foisted upon us, as well as asked on a state and national level to compromise or discard ideals that got me into education in the first place, I needed to step aside.

“Times They are a Changing,” as Dylan once wrote. Whereas my many college textbooks, anthologies, readers and rhetorics had been staples in academia for almost two decades, they fell into disfavor as textbook commissions in various states declared my work (and the instructors who often used my books) too woke.  I never thought I’d see the day that a reader/rhetoric like Visions Across the Americas became a banned book.

Enough.  Since moving to Union, I taught a few literature classes at Western Washington University, but shifted my attention to organizing and hosting Open Mics for poetry and short fiction: 1) initially face-to-face and 2) virtually ever since the Covid epidemic. Additionally, I have written and published several collections of creative works: “Masques: Flash Fiction & Short Stories,” (2020),  “Serpent’s Tooth,” (2021),  “Flytraps,” (2022), “Cracks of Light: Pandemic Poetry & Fiction: 2019-2022,” (2022), “Halcyon Days: Collected Fibonacci,” (2023). and “Abraxas: Poems” (2024).

I will close with a poem from Abraxas, my most recent collection of poetry, and invite all former EVC and SJCC colleagues to join me sometime to listen and/or participate in my monthly open mic: Union of Poets. The open mic takes place on the second Tuesday of each month. Cheers.



Vapor Trails                                                                                                                        

A single wing glides then slices
through Twilight Zone clouds
its steady, unexceptional carriage
gains momentum, builds grandeur
as it soars through the troposphere
resisting an alluring cirrus vortex
daring navigators & pilots to dive
into unchartered black holes, explore
murky depths & endure an ice cycle

baptism from rudder to fuselage,
cockpit to tail, turbines to stabilizers.

My best poems like vapor trails
exist in a moment, lag behind me
then dissipate amid smoky condensation
that defy longevity’s imprints
as evasive as an oddly familiar stranger’s
face encountered in a dreamscape. Quixotic
convictions dissemble, suggest creativity
linger in beads of sweat. Inspired. Patient.
Words wait to take flight like sliver birds

while overcast skies invite fresh verse to rest
atop rainbow arcs like temporal contrails.