ABOUT Paul J. Willis

Paul Willis is a professor of English at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California.   He is also the author of Bright Shoots of Everlastingness:  Essays on Faith and the American Wild.

And I am not sure if a link to "The Next Great Travel Writer" is appropriate, but if it is...




Pecan Grove Press

Visiting Home
by Paul J. Willis

ISBN: 978-1-931247-47-4 $15

About Paul J. Willis’s Work:

“Paul Willis’s poems give off a multifaceted, sharp-edged beauty, akin to the light that sometimes glints from the edges of leaves after rain. They look to the places where unexpected treasures lie quietly hidden – a childhood illness, a set of old wooden bleachers, a Sierra juniper’s berries – and bring that treasure richly forward, into a mature, and maturing wisdom.”
                      —Jane Hirshfield

“Paul Willis possesses an uncanny ability to chart the dangers that lie within us. In these poems he writes accurately and in detail about those dangers. This book reveals how high the stakes are, how tenuous the connections that bind us. And yet in these poems Willis names—often with breathtaking beauty—what can be rescued by love, forgiveness and grace.”
        —Jeanne Murray Walker

Common Ground


Today I dug an orange tree out of the damp, black earth.
My grandfather bought a grove near Anaheim
at just my age. Like me, he didn’t know much.
“How’d you learn to grow oranges, Bill?”
friends said. “Well,” he said, “I look at what

my neighbor does, and I just do the opposite.”
Up in Oregon, he and his brother discovered
the Willamette River. They were both asleep
on the front of the wagon, the horses stopped,
his brother woke up. “Will,” he said, “am it a river?”

My grandfather, he cooked for the army during the war,
the first one. He flipped the pancakes up the chimney,
they came right back through the window onto the griddle.
In the Depression he worked in a laundry during the night,
struck it rich in pocketknives. My grandfather,

he liked to smoke in his orange grove, as far away on the property
as he could get from my grandmother,
who didn’t approve of life in general, him in particular.
Smoking gave him something to feel disapproved for,
set the world back to rights. Like everyone else,

my grandfather sold his grove to make room
for Disneyland. He laughed all the way to the bank,
bought in town, lived to see his grandsons born
and died of cancer before anyone wanted him to, absent
now in the rootless presence of damp, black earth


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Most recent revision
November 11, 2003

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