icebergs near twillingate

by edward harkness


From this bluff on the coast of Newfoundland,
hulks appear like a ghostly armada.
Near one, a sight-seeing ship vanishes
as it passes behind a steepled mass—
a sudden lesson in size, scale, distance
and the shape of things to come.
Bergs, I learn, wander a mile a week,
bearing cargoes of blue light.
Notre Dames of ice, their buttresses crack,
spires break, topple, un-architected
by the warming Atlantic.
I picture myself on a pier
when one of the bergs arrives,
awash, smaller than a dinghy, enroute
to nothingness, a glass gargoyle, last one
of its kind, bobbing next to a piling.

ancestry

by edward harkness


I’ve spent entire days lost in the warehouses
of dust, searching the archives, imagining my ancestors
boarding ships for America, leaving the coal mines
of Cornwall, only to end in Wright County, Iowa,
in an untended graveyard wedged between a corn field
and the Union Pacific line, their stones toppled,
their names scrubbed by a hundred fifty winters
to an indecipherable blur.

I leave them in their moldering beds to stroll the garden,
drawn by a rufous hummingbird needling the feeder,
his head a burst of copper in the angled morning light.
I love how he bobs among the squash blossoms,
barging into one yellow mansion, then another,
insatiable, as I am, at times, impatient to say
the unsayable, wondering what difference it makes
to the purple finches bickering in the laurel hedge.

I go out again at dusk. He’s still there, levitating,
hovering among the beans, seeking a droplet
from each white beaker. Then he’s gone,
leaving me with my ancestors and their beards,
bonnets and gold time pieces. Farms failed.
Over in Illinois, the Averys upped stakes,
arriving by train at Puget Sound, dumbstruck by the girth
of doug firs and hemlocks bejeweled by April rain.

William, Josie and the new baby, Birdy, trundled toward
a logging camp near Bremerton, bouncing in a wagon
to the end of a mud-gummed road. Might they not have
passed thickets of wild rose? Might they not have seen
those same flashes of copper, startled by the furious
whir of hundreds of rufous hummers, themselves
migrants from Mexico? I want to think so.
I want to think Josie, exhausted from the journey,

said to her baby, Look, sweetheart, at all the wildflowers,
as their buckboard came within hearing
of the rasp of whipsaws, the scream of a steam whistle
and the crash of a felled cedar in this, their new home.

the poet visits

by eugenia hepworth petty


Itinerant in the Northwest each summer
he plays  sevillanas on the porch
and argues about the use of language 
to describe the rap-poets' hubris

He lives twenty feet above the San Lorenzo
high in the watershed	
where the water runs narrow and shallow
between the banks

At night, roosters, doves and guinea pigs 
sleep in cages in the safety of the house
            the ferret passed away in the spring
miniature horses entertain the children 
of Indian families in Sunnyvale 
on  Ratha Yatra and Diwali 

He recalls the story of when he was 86'd 
from the artist complex in Santa Cruz
"I wasn't being belligerent
 I was being a poet," he says
pacing back and forth

statement of place: eugenia hepworth petty

I have only lived in central Washington for the past few years yet have felt an affinity with the landscape that surprised me, though in truth it makes perfect sense. As a child, I spent many winter and summer holidays in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and on the plains of southern Kansas, and these landscapes never left me, particularly my love of flowing mountain streams and the changing of the seasons. I was born in Texas, but spent most of my life living near the Pacific Ocean on the central coast of California, between Santa Cruz and the East Bay. I earned a bachelor of arts in English from Mills College in Oakland, and a master of arts in Poetics from New College of California in San Francisco before serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in a rural village in Western Ukraine. My experiences in Eastern Europe, in landscapes more akin to central Washington than the California coast, inform much of my art today, so to be back among snow, sunflowers, and koza feels like a homecoming to me. I am cherishing the fields and hills of my new home: mist rising off marshland in autumn; herons watching from cattails and iris; raptors sitting atop craggy trees like sentries guarding a mystical underworld. I still have much to explore in Cascadia and the Pacific Northwest but am grateful to be in, as David McCloskey stated, “a land of falling waters.”

the lost man leaves a will

by jennifer boyden


To the wind, the fullness of my mouth, juice
of my openness. To gnawing things, the osseous fists
of my bones’ rebinding. I want the earth
to accept my head. I have wanted to be held
by something my entire life, something that demands
all of me to answer back with holding.

To my gone children, all I cannot say without
my tongue. I call you in silence. You answer
in kind, and are counted. To birds, a nest of hair
and threads for the wobble-necked and pink-bodied.

I give the trust of grass to bear and raccoon,
to the crepuscular world who pauses before taking,
whose staring eyes give back the light of cars
as if to fix the breakage of air
before the great coming down upon them.
I have been broken. I
have been broken.

My walk from one place to this did not leave
a trail: I walked my route only once, and once-
forward is not enough to be remembered by grass.
My path is where I column into my own shape.
I give space to air with my leaving.
I give space to flying with my leaving.

I ask for nothing in return. I have received more
than I asked for, and worse: the world afloat; answers
at once and for nearly everything; animal bellies
untethered and dragging.

To the leaf, serration of my teeth.
To water, ice of my witnessing. It will need it.
To deer, asking and then emptiness before slaughter.
The grass should take my memory. But to the trails worn
by the escaping many, the mud of unknowing.

Here is what I know for now: worms,
I have loved you rightly
since I learned that dirt holds secrets blind and dependent
on whatever mercies we are willing to gift. I gave you names.
I counted your rings, measured your body-yawns

toward darkness. Worms, you are better than stars
because you are here.

Do you remember
how my mother stitched her people’s names
to my cuffs and then disappeared? The birds left
before the people did, but you, you worms, you stayed.

To the worms, my thanks. I ask you to make me rich
within yourselves: you stayed. While the earth
was fleeing itself, I named you, and you answered
to the place of my naming, and remain.


“The Lost Man Leaves a Will” was first published in The Declarable Future, © 2013, by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. Reprinted by permission of The University of Wisconsin Press.

statement of place: jennifer boyden

I used to climb a pine tree just to have a quiet place to read, and I looked forward to the Minnesota winters because the snow makes the world so intimately silent: You can hear your heart, see your breath pushed out just in front of yourself, and then walk through it into another breath. Growing up with many siblings and a small house put me on an early path of pursuing silence and privacy, those places where I can hear the rhythms of my mind and feel word shapes take form, build, connect, and become ideas. I need a fair amount of space and quiet for this to happen. Living in the inland northwest at the edge of the Blue Mountains for the past fifteen years has provided plenty of such spaces: rolling Palouse wheat fields, thick forests, scrubland, and a river with its many tributaries. Oh, the river: I grew up in water, and so it has always been a companion that shares a need for both the hidden and the surface flash. I have lived too many very different places to say with any kind of authority where I am from (Wichita, Kansas; Boston, Massachusetts; southern Oregon, China, etc . . .). But I know what I am from: Lynch Lake, Mill Creek, apple and oak and pine trees, granite and basalt, and grasses . . . . I believe I can claim the what of place more than the where, making my homes among those things where there is potential for recognition of a mutual residence within.

david on the phone

by jennifer boyden


David sober says to feed the bear
who’s eating the birdseed in our front yard.
Says we must, for him, feed it so we’ll earn a badge
under the god he’s wearing lately. God with eyes.
God who sleeps a lot when David needs him most,
and whose waking patience is thin
as the bear’s winter cells. This God of tallying
and disappearances is called upon by David most
in the time of morning vapor when it’s hardest
for David sober to believe: whole day stretched
in front of him like paint thinner, each cup a cup
which is to be used for coffee only. Feed the bear,
David says sober though alone at his end of the hour
when god might wake for him. David says
it would go well for all of us if we pour milk over bread,
honey over meat, and then carry out the bowl.
But lock the door when you’re done, David says
sober, because the source is always sweeter
than the meal. He says the bear’s salvation will be heard,
and might speak for him at the end of his need.

And with what sweetness on the tongue
will it urge the god of that single cup awake?
And with what honeyed breath will it seek
us out again, small gods terrified of the asking?

 


“David on the Phone” was first published in The Declarable Future, © 2013, by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. Reprinted by permission of The University of Wisconsin Press.

a cockeyed optimism

by judith skillman


I’ve risen like the day moon
into a sky entirely azure. I’m a venture,
the angels will invest in me.

Little by little I trained myself
on  wine—now I can put away
half a bottle. I’ll fill the gaps
in all your conversations. Nothing
stagnant will grow, no rest marks,
no space between notes of this allegro.

I’ve no room for any silence
except the one I make when I pick up
my needles to knit—when
from the circular needles 
Joseph’s coat grows in cabled stitches
you’ll wear when winter freezes
the machines idling now between
chops at gratuitous trees, those 
that keep sun from infecting rooftops.

I’ve risen like Jesus from the dead
and no one can hold me down,
not the stone, nor the women who’d nag
a Roman soldier till he caved. 

                                    I’ll limp
along beside you, lenticular as a cloud,
undeniable as a mountain, and you
won’t know what hit you—whether
it happened in Prague or Paris,
Venice or Rome, only that love’s
an old woman with a tear in her eye
from laughing, and death’s a cliché
holding its sides, ribs broken, the whole
carapace crumbling like the Parthenon
when time was at its best

and still had a chance to affect 
what I built sidewise in order for you
to learn to lean—but nobly, akin to the tower 
of Pisa, into your own shadows.

sea smoke

by judith skillman


As far as winter
stretches, I am alone
on this cliff
staring down at what
could be fog or steam or mist.

The whisper of reeds recalls
a wound I barely remember,
a figure who could be . . .

As far as we are apart,
as old as that
and more, our differences,
the complaint you mustered
upon finding heat coalesced
into a lump.

The body, cremated, can be compressed
to diamonds. Stroke of gray
on a gull, prescience,
hull of the boat that might have saved Icarus
when he came of age . . .

As far as the dead are concerned,
the sun is smoke
the moon milk,
stars salt. With seared eyes
the dead see the living,
hunched figures
who find by dreaming
what it is they are looking for.

A glimpse of cloth,
bone of hanger left between a coat
torn from its closet
and the marred dowel
from which hung
garment bags. Mothballs
of ancient Styrofoam,
the insects have eaten
through silk, cashmere, linen,
and more.

Hat that should have been worn
in minus centigrade—
the dead see
our flesh in tatters
and the foreshortened days,
foreshadowing.

 


“Sea Smoke” was first published in Heat Lightning New and Selected Poems 1986–2006, reprinted by permission of Silverfish Review Press.

postcards to cascadia: eileen walsh duncan

Duncan Postcard One Back 3

 


There Be Fiends: Dear Mom, / You gave me your truth, warnings / that skitter out of my satchel, / zing my spine. / If I’d known anything, / I would have asked for tools, / and ditched the dress, the lipstick, / all edible markings. / Tools I collected out here: / When cornered, / do not meet their gaze, they / thirst for your retina’s quiver. / Watch the shoulders, they / presage the strike. / To be invisible, / synchronize / each intake of breath. — Eileen Walsh Duncan

View postcard image: The Wizard of Oz