Nita Countryman

Writings of the Pacific Northwest


Nita’s Publications

The Origin of Bear


Out of the Woods: Meadow and Roadside Songs

















   Inside a Douglas Fir



Blood should be clear amber under tree bark.

     -- Mary Barnard, “Roots”             



My lips open to form word shapes— 

soon-to-be phrases that will correct

the woman who’s just invented (in her poem)

red amber inside a fir tree. 

My breath halts as my mind sees

not pebbles of clear, hard amber

clumped on ridges of bark, 

but instead, a warm


watering of transparent ooze— 

rising through the rings

of a giant pinwheel of a stump: 
this and the rough snowfall of sawdust

(to wipe from the knees)

all that remain of a tree that grew

through ninety winters.  Too many

to recite in a poetry class.


We would queue at the driveway

for peanuts or whatever left-over bit

Dad hadn’t eaten in the woods. 

He’d set down his silver-domed hat,

and his hands would pry the lunch-pail: 

smell of bologna rising— 

the quickest small hand

grabbing the half-sandwich. One day


Dad lifted the edge of a cardboard box.

Inside, a squirrel raced,
spinning into madness;

the loggers had felled a tree on its nest.

Another day he carried a bucket—

turtle’s mouth snapping in the water;

the stone feet

slapped like sandpaper


til we slid him—fighting—into the creek. 
One day Dad was early, but left his silver hat

and the lunch-pail sitting, dusty, on the car seat.
He slammed the screen door.  We hushed.

Next morning Mama talked into the phone,

her face turned to the window: 

His partner was killed . . .

pinned under a tree. 


The woman has finished reading the last

of her poem. Her sing-song phrases
fall into a canyon of silence. 

I close my eyes, and see—unbidden— 

the red amber.  It flows

in a slow river:  crimsoning

the moss that cushions the dying
body of a Douglas fir.


              "Inside a Douglas Fir" appeared in Windfall: A Journal of Poetry of Place,

                and was also published in Nita's chapbook The Origin of Bear.



You know we have grown this way for years. And to no purpose you
 can understand.  Yet what you fail to know we know . . .

                   -- Susan Griffin.  From “Forest: The Way We Stand.”



    Nita Countryman’s writing reflects a life responding to the forested surroundings where she has lived since   

     childhood.  Having been raised with three sisters and three brothers in the rural foothills of the Cascade Range, her
     earliest memories were formed from rain-soaked moss, from the creek that meanders through the family

     property, and from Douglas fir trees that still tower over her daily existence.


     These natural elements enter her writing not as landscape, but – along with the birds, deer, coyotes, and even black 
     bear that populate rural Southwest Washington – as active agents gently guiding the tone and content of her poetry.


     Nita’s poetry has appeared in a number of journals, including Windfall, Clackamas Literary Review,
     Manzanita Quarterly, 4th Street, Verseweavers, Spring Hill Review, Veljeysviesti, Avocet, Simply Haiku,
     The Portland Alliance,
and other publications.  She has received several awards, including three from the
     Oregon State Poetry Association. 


     She received her MALS degree (with concentrated studies in literature) from Reed College, having earlier
     earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Humanities (English) at Washington State University:  Phi Beta Kappa.



Nita’s first poetry chapbook The Origin of Bear was released by Finishing Line Press in 2006. Cover photo by Jeff Rauch. Ordering information for the book can be found here




Nita’s latest poetry chapbook Out of the Woods: Meadow and Roadside Songs was released by Finishing Line Press in 2011.  Cover art by Sharon Bronzan. Ordering information for the book can be found here.