Poems

I wrote this poem for my friend who died in Alaska in 2010. Fireweed is a plant in the evening primrose family; it grows in the Pacific Northwest and is among the first to come up after there has been a disturbance to the land.


Fireweed

i.

it was dawn, there were thrushes

up and down the path, moss

gathering the light, gathering

the rain and the men hauling in

the nets, the nets filled with silver

coins, jewels, oil, an abundance


there was the frost waiting in the mountaintops

and we wanted to show you

all the crystals that stood underneath the needles

waiting they were waiting for you


to notice them and take them in hand



ii.


how long had you been gazing

west how many afternoons


did you see his face, did you want to touch

his face, was he waiting, did you ask


him to bring you, did you request

your own canoe (how neatly it cuts


through the channel) were you hopeful

did you ask were we wrong about everything were we



iii.


everything waking up now as it always

does fern hillock hummock

root wad tide pool and a hairline fracture

where the light crawls along


and the spines and the moss after nightfall

and the faces of the women

lining the riverbed holding out their baskets

one by one by one by one


they step up to the trunk

where the water shines and the tiny

root hairs reach into the cold

invisible like nerves




iv.


nothing could hold the salt nothing could capture the paint nothing could hold the wind nothing could cover the stones



v.


did he say it, did he touch you, did he call,

was he there, did you believe him, was there

smoke, were there rattles, were there teeth,

did you ask, did the blanket hide you

did the wind spill through the channel,

did the ice feel right, were there matches,

were there needles, could we have spoken

better, could we have held you tighter,

could the light have traveled any more

quickly into your heart



vi.


afterwards, we could see him traveling

through the village we didn’t want

to see him we didn’t want to see


but he just kept limping along there

and sometimes he stopped at the window

and we closed the blinds


and he tapped and he tapped with a fingernail

a mussel shell

a piece of fish

a cup of oil

a twisted bone

a hunk of wood

an ivory goose

a thorny grin

and we opened the window after all




vii.


there were the baskets and bowls

and blankets and your daughter carried the nets

and the nets kept filling up, we couldn’t stop them

(her wrists adorned with silver and garnet)

and when we gathered at the roadside


there was light

there was ice and rain

there was the sound of the ice

touching down onto the earth


and there were the thrushes

there were the songs

all along the path

and there was your voice

twisted into the woven leaves


we were sure of it




The following long poem was first published as Steven Hitchins' Literary Pocket Pook #2 in Pontypridd, Wales, UK.


TEXT ME, ISHMAEL


i.

Ability to evaluate different genres of creative writing.

Linked-In, Jim has switched from the Higher Education

Industry to the Insurance Industry. Transferable skills.

Your inner child galloping along the rocky ridge. Did you happen

to catch the YouTube of the man trying

to cross Halibut Point Road? So intoxicated he finally

lies down and rolls. Himalayan poppies

lining the wall, and huge marigolds under the window-

sill. Breaking dawn, after another night,

the husband trudges out into the morning’s

mouth. He’s bending at the stern of the vessel,

he’s hauling in the nets. What does he bring

home through the door in the evening? What skill set?


ii.

The hill is made of Old Red Sandstone

from the Devonian Period. Out of the fort

at Crug Hywel, the tiny iron figures marched

onto your windowsill, bearing knives and bayonets.

In the mean time, we brewed some strong tea.

And inside the chambers of our hearts, matchsticks

formed the figures of men. Our sister

crumpled in the ditch. Old friend, they lay you flat

upon the table and lifted out the sour parts. And your new

life began. Your children still clung to your hips;

they did not know the difference. And I lit the lantern

in the evening and I set out the bowls of seeds.

Inside the greenhouse, under the wrinkled glass,

our sister is standing up and dressing herself.


iii.

Always trudging out into the morning’s

mouth. Out through the front door and up

the coast, across the seedlings, the artichokes.

Goldfinches nesting in the hedge. Galloping

child, hopeful daughter, friend request. There,

the fringe is eaten away by moths. And there,

bright snowberries decorate the creek. What

smooth beast? Asters and geranium, a horse

struggling in a ditch. Imagine that we had a long

enough rope and the strength. That the carousel

never stopped turning, the bright eyes and manes. How

different each morning, and how long would you keep

hauling it in, planting the pumpkins, gathering the fleece?

Listen. The looms are clicking and thumping, wool

pulled thin and looking for a place.


iv.

Our sister, crumpled in the ditch. Months

for the bruise to disappear, green lake

filling up under a long flat sky.

The surface looked as though it would spill

right over... and we stared and stared but

did not know any strategy with which

to contain it. Lots of times they do remain

behind bars. We thought about the shadows

marching across the men’s faces. Not how

to manage the fear or the tendency to return.

Far away, several bottlenose dolphins headed

for the West Coast at breakneck speed, carrying

radiation from the spill. And somewhere else a hand

stroked a harp. And our sister chewed the little pill.


v.

Linked-In, over the shining trees. A flock

of sandpipers breaks apart, reunites, breaks

apart again. In Fort Collins, the fire took

more than 82,000 acres, 191 homes, 1 human

life. Still, the tide rose and fell. I wanted

to hold you, to reinvent the old rooms filled

with one scent. I spent a year walking

the shore. I lifted the stone, I stuck my head

deep into the pool, peeked around in there. Cool

water, still water. The giant green anemone

fastening itself to the driftwood, rough

as sandpaper, waving and reaching, every tentacle

filled with nerves. And the mouth. Big flower.

I wanted to bring it home but I left it there.


Caroline Goodwin 2013