The Willow

The willow spread its roots

along the river bank.

It once lived high

in the sacred mountain

where it played with sun gods.

The gods taught the willow

how to use their energy

to keep its truck strong

and its branches whippy, limber.

They taught it how

to find water

high above the land

in hidden lakes.

How to be medicine

and how to shelter those in need

without expecting return.

But the gods were captured,

tormented into lies,

their names brought pain.

Eagles and shadows

liberated the gods

and hid them away.

The willow was banned

from the mountain it loved,

for it knew the gods’ names

and had learned too much.

It was forced to uproot to the valley

along with other willows

too strong to beat out the gods.

When the wind blows

down the mountain,

the scent of sacred spaces

fills the valley.

The willow limbs now

make gewgaws and tchotchkes

for spectators

who find them precious,

but will cast away

both trees and trinkets

once they’ve left the red rocks.

Ruins remain from battles long over.

The willow, still banned endures.

One day the gods will come out

from hidden dwellings

to take the willow home.

-by Amanda Blanchard



illustration by Amanda Blanchard

Capitol Reef

Sitting in soup

thick, sticky, just off the boil,

melting skin gluing together.

Sweat dribbles down my face

down my back

seeping into cracks

as rain into red rocks

deep in the desert.

It boils off in the gold glint

burning sand of white dust

at the bottom of the waterfall

where we caught minnows

bouncing down the slimy stone,

beyond the ice cream mountain

whipped swirling to the top

in a heaping scoop.

Screaming siblings forced

to sit together play nice.

Held over holes dug so deep

a fall would mean instant death

just to find relief.

Beauty all around,

yet nothing for miles

but heat and Helen Reddy,

whose nose we’ve scratched off

the label on the 8-track.

Empty threats to kick us out

do nothing to end competitions

to make each the most miserable.

I always crowned the champion

with shrieks torn from a rough throat

scarred by dust and sand

sucked in breath.

Slaps to burnt skin

from swimming naked

and climbing lettered white rocks.

Bleached bones scattered.

Heat is never-ending,

the sun ever blinding,

the rocks of ancient rivers glow

as sunsets in the day.

-by Amanda Blanchard

Happy 40th Eno Festival!

Another Festival for the Eno has passed. This year marked the 40th anniversary of the festival. For those not familiar, the festival is a local music and artist festival for which the proceeds go to preserving the Eno River. A bit of trivia: the Eno River (and several actual street names in my neighborhood) is mentioned in Stranger Things. The Duffer brothers are from the same neighborhood. Eno River is part of North Carolina’s Mountains-to-Sea Trail, it passes through the Occoneeccee Speedway I got to visit last week, and it nears Bennett Place where General Sherman first declared the end end of the American Civil War. Where the festival is held is known as West Point at the Eno. It has a few remaining homesteads and a working grain mill where you can still buy cornmeal ground by antique machinery. One of the homes belonged to early photographer Hugh Mangum. This is a charcoal drawing I did of one of his portraits:

I’ve been going to the festival almost every summer since 1983, only missing due to my years living in Seattle and times after moving back to NC when having toddlers to chase after. My parents became huge Doc Watson when we moved to North Carolina from Utah. Doc Watson and his son played the Eno festival, so it attracted my parents’ attention very early on. The festival was my first real exposure to grassroots culture and things like the Society for Creative Anachronism. We returned year after year.

More recently, I try to volunteer for the festival. I’ve helped put up the Big Top tent, which is an enormous shelter that takes dozens of people to help erect, helped guide cars, worked the information booth, and did face painting. This year, I helped man a booth for work. We create the festival guide for Eno every year.

The first day this year, I saw bands like Chatham Rabbits and House and Land. Both are a bit old-timey, but House and Land range also ventures into medieval to progressive sounds. We bought their vinyl. It definitely grew on me!

There was a freak thunderstorm that day. Even though there were storms predicted, we didn’t expect to have lightning actually strike feet from the river. I’ve heard that people in the water felt the electricity zap them. I wrote the poem “Bolt” about my experience. It got to over 100F that day. After the storm, the temperature dropped 30 degrees.


The second day of the festival brought another day of excessive heat and added soupy humidity to the air. There was a threat of storms again, but they luckily never developed. It was a beautiful day! I got to see some of my friends play music on stage, and got to dance and get super sweaty to the band Tan and Sober Gentlemen. Such a great time!

I was told I looked like a “wilted flower” by the end of the day. I woke up like this:

I’m definitely not a summer person, but I look forward to the Eno festival every year. See you next year!

Click on these links for more information:

Eno River Festival

Eno River State Park

Eno River Association

Historic Occoneechee Speedway

Bennett Place

Chatham Rabbits

House and Land

Tan and Sober Gentlemen


The handmade parade

of stilted birds and giant men

traipsed towards the meadow

to rattled beats on gourdy drums

neath angry skies

gnashing blackened teeth

quick to snappy bites,

flood with drool globs.

In a flash powder effect

spitting forth silver-suited angels,

Zeus threw a bolt so near,

it whipped through sound

and shook the ground.

The parade made sure

that all were fine

in the moments of standing time.

No one spoke for the shock.

Drums nervously grew louder

shaking the hardihood,

shortening the fuses.

The handmade parade

carried on their path

while fireworks continued

to assault onlookers.

Angry skies pissing dogs

marking acred territory.

Summer fell into a muddy fall.

-by Amanda Blanchard

Imposseros Rhinoceros

I am the king of the forest

with this imposseros rhinoceros

sat upon my head.

I can see your eyes looking up

to the dandy lion’s mane,

the dandelion –

narcissus petals flopped over

giant bones and brains.

Look at my eyes,

ice-blue seas –

whales spray wet stars glinting gold

in frozen sunlight.

Are we fairytales written

by rabbits yet?

Some of us don’t feel real

so we play through our day

amongst the bricks

that make this little city,

steadily packing more

unreal people in by scooters,

not enough breath

to utter more than a growl.

It’s ok.

They really have nothing to say.

Gawking with wagging jaws

when I look into their eyes

that slowly look up and grow wide.

-by Amanda Blanchard