hiking near paradise

by patricia clark

Near Paradise Pass, where the icy solitary stream
sent up vapors, I rounded a bend and my heart
thumped a beat to find him down, prone in the road,
his head pillowed on one arm where he lay
smoking. It was the only time I went off alone
with him, overnight, the firs sighing overhead
as we trudged along an old logging road. He eyes
opened, when I got close, and he simply said,
“Reach into my pocket.” I never felt as shy
with him as I did then, fumbling at my father’s
jacket, its lint-lined plaid pocket. A gray-brown
whiskered field mouse hid there, trembling and
squeaking like a bedspring. When I asked he said,
“No, you can’t bring it home.” Two gentle natures,
the mouse’s and his, how I still think of them napping
heart-to-heart a few minutes there before I came
along. I released it away from the stream, the road,
far from any dangers I could imagine, near
a half-rotted nurse-log carpeted by moss.
It disappeared so fast that my hands never seemed
to have cupped or held it, never reached
into his pocket that long-ago day, the deserted road
impossible to find now, overgrown and lost.


“Hiking Near Paradise” was published in The Texas Observer, Volume 96, and in My Father on a Bicycle (Michigan State University Press, 2005)


by patricia clark

He would cut into the belly
of one, at the kitchen
sink, Mother squabbling
in the background, and he’d be
up to his elbows in silver,
blood shining from the knife,
the room smelling of sweat,
boots, coffee, smoke, and though
I’d been at home,
in bed the whole time, I could
see the Puyallup River, the herons
rising, cattails and redwing
blackbirds with their bottlebrush
shapes and streaks of color,
from shore to shore a thick fog,
but rolling up and off like smoke, a reel
singing as the steelhead ran
with the line, the hurry, the thrash
and splashing, feet stumbling
along the shore to keep up,
to keep the line from getting cut.
Surely this was a victory for them,
Father saying it’s a female, then
he’s pulled out the whole orange clump
to show my brothers.
Yes, he is saying, we’ll use the roe
as our next bait, and How about
Saturday, early? He holds them up
in front of the window, though I was never
actually there to see it, scales smeared
on the faucet, on the hump between
the two sinks, his forearms
all silver and orange on fire. The guts
and severed head lay in a mass on
papertowels. Light glinted thick
through the raised orange
globes. Yes, good thing this was a female.


“Male/Female” was published in Slate, April 29, 1999, and in My Father on a Bicycle (Michigan State University Press, 2005)

western slope

by patricia clark

A drink the color of malachite or jade, Green River
from a shaped glass, the flexible straw, long sip,
while you turned, swung, tapped your toes
under the soda fountain bar. The walk down 56th Street
to South Tacoma Avenue, allowance, coins,
the public library, five-and-dime, gone, all gone.

Fretted verdure, the splash of light through green
into the front seat, and two ways to go: up the hill, rutted,
gravelly, and church-roof steep, or the way
where branches scratched the car, and the blind
corner—Father letting you press the horn as your three
sisters screamed and covered their ears.

Water just off the shore where the bottom fell
away—emerald, verd antique, aquamarine.
And the jellyfish floated, a Medea-head, yellow-gold,
big as a cabbage, tentacled, poisonous. The boat’s motor
kicked and the line snapped, pulling you up
on skis, the wake rolling toward you, something alive.

On the cliff, we balanced in wind, three figures,
four—hands in coat pockets, then arms swinging back
and up, so the coats became sails on that salt air, and down
below grew poison oak, the tangled no-path to the bay,
and we teetered there, letting the northwest gusts
buffet us, holding us there on the verge, balancing.

Coming back green, evergreen, down through clouds,
and the airplane flaps lowered with a shudder, jolt,
as though anything could slow the shock. Father gone,
the house sold, Mount Rainier a chilly constant
touched golden in late sun, the whole western slope
a glacier field that never stayed in place.


“Western Slope” was published in My Father on a Bicycle (Michigan State University Press, 2005)

tongue point

by patricia clark

My hand knew first. Among the strew
of beach logs, tree trunks rolled by waves,
some with tendriled roots still intact,
some clearly cut, the huge hulk of dead walrus,
thick itself as a tree, mouth bared, eyes already
long since clouded over and plucked out
by gulls. Whatever cry I made
became, in wind, a minor human
sound thin and gone like a dandelion wisp
not to be seeded, sent out hopeless
over waves. No visible wounds,
no decay—I stepped around it
then to see. Once startled, something in me
wanted to stay, to lie down beside it on the beach,
as though I could be, at once, both its
orphan and protector.
I thought of a fire. But all
the wood around was salt-soaked, dripping
with rain, my clothes and face
moistened and slick, no matches,
no paper. In my mind I saw it
going up in flames, the walrus
seeming to roll its weight over in smoke
as it had in the tumbled waters
of Neah Bay. Rain pelted down,
the light was gone by four, stone hard,
stone stiff, the sea kicking up white.


“Tongue Point” was published in Rhino, 2003

statement of place: patricia clark

I have long since moved away from the Pacific Northwest but it was my birthplace and no doubt it remains the landscape that most imprints my writing and character. My childhood was spent in Tacoma, Washington where I was part of a large family with my mother originally from the Boston area and my father from North Dakota. They were married on the East Coast, and my three older siblings were born in Massachusetts. I was the first child born in the Pacific Northwest (Tacoma). Instrumental to my writing were the camping and day trips we made all throughout the region: to Hood Canal, the Olympic Peninsula, to Eastern Washington and the Lake Chelan/Wenatchee area, to the Oregon coast at Cannon Beach. Sometimes we were seeking sunshine but often we were pulled to saltwater beaches, oyster beds, sand and surf. The images that will resonate for me forever are Mount Rainier, the waters of inlets, bays, ocean, and rivers, as well as evergreen trees.


by frank soos

I have come to this place on the river not so much to find fish, but to find myself alone.
Sometimes I hear the sound of the river, sometimes I hear the rattle of my line as it settles
in the guides at the end of my cast. The fly makes a noise noiseless to my ears and drops
onto the water.

Lately, I find I have less to say to others and more to say to myself. No need to say it
aloud. No need for words. Just wade the river and fish to the point where thought itself
will disappear.

The seen pop of a bubble, sound-not-sound.


by frank soos

Admittedly, we didn’t make the sea; it made us. But might it be to our credit that we
recognized it for what it is: flashing, forever, giver of life?

So when those first aspirants crawled out and away from all they knew, what were they

Foolish, too eager to make our way, here we are. We’ve made a mess of ourselves and
the sea, too. No point in asking forgiveness, the sea won’t answer. It will always be the
sea, it’s we who can’t go back.