voices from the cascadia bioregion

vacant lot

by gary lark

It was just a vacant lot
and the neighbor’s dogs,
a bitch with mostly grown pups,
circled me.
I moved cautiously,
they moved, circling, with me.
I held a hand in back
and talked in tones
a pet would know
but their ears were flat,
their eyes glistened,
teeth bared.
One took a quick piece of my hand.
I spun, snarled, kicking out.
They moved back a step
and circled.
They were on a wild plain
assessing whether they could take this animal down,
rip its throat out, eat its guts.
I sidled to the neighbor’s door
just a few yards away,
an oasis on a familiar continent.
Stitches closed the wound
but not the hole in time.


    ward b, 10:15 p.m.

    by gary lark


    We are making rounds, checking bodies.
    We reposition a few, turn a head, change diapers.
    No babies here, some are teenagers,
    others older, approaching death.
    Age fades to meaninglessness
    among these beds. Some have sat
    in wheelchairs during the day,
    some have been moved from bed to vinyl chair
    and back, fed from lap boards,
    touched when necessary.
    Our words slip around them,
    oscillations and fibers of meaning
    sift over translucent skin and unwashed hair.
    Our worlds orbit the same genetic sun,
    but we remain strangers.
    Only Wally, crazy Wally, will scoop up
    one of these ruined bodies,
    legs and arms akimbo,
    and waltz down the hall
    through other wards and back
    singing “You’re an angel baby,
    my angel baby mine.
    Come fly with me to the moon,
    angel baby mine.”
    We finish with diapers
    and make one last bed check
    where Claudia’s eyes watch me
    with all the blue there is.


      night talk

      by gary lark


      Outside the halo of firelight
      bones rattle in the long dark,
      shadows dance,
      trees reach.

      Mountain cradle,
      horizon to horizon
      the sky lurid with stars—
      a midnight wider than wise.

      Incubation in the shallow dirt
      on this planet,
      we build our schemes
      on the great sea of indifference.

      Trepidation as we stare
      past the place of questions,
      a glimpse of that that circles us
      as we revolve.

      We stir the embers
      and tell each other stories
      we almost believe.
      Lay meaning in the ashes.

      The original loneliness:
      we carry it with the first
      glimmer of consciousness
      in that part of our brain that howls.


        statement of place: gary lark

        I grew up in the Umpqua Valley of southern Oregon. When I wasn’t in school or earning money for school clothes, I was in or on the river. Fifty-some years later, I am sitting on a rock ledge watching the current swirl in its constant, particular chaos near Whistler’s Bend; I can hear the voice of the river below Eagle Rock; I can feel the push of the boat as we troll the smooth water above Well’s Creek. All other rivers are defined by the one that taught me more than I could possibly learn.