The Narrowness of Stories

 I dreamed of mudslides shrinking Lincoln Park.
 A crumbled cottage made of stones. 
 Two eagles — too proud to scavenge
 spawned-out salmon choking in the foam.
 Dogs tore meat from a beachbound seal.
 A Jamestown Chief spit on a car – 
 The next best thing 
          he squeezed through sour teeth
 to wishing on a star.
 What’s history to the mud, anyway?
 What’s tradition to the sea?
 An upturned trash can on the beach –
 another homeless camp along the street.
 The Cascades turned their back on me
 and hid thunder from the skies.
 Olympic floods 
           just like that 
 choked to runnels.
 Tribal rage gone saturnine. 

7 thoughts on “The Narrowness of Stories”

  1. Above the trail to the summit
    Clouds muzzle the mountains —
    Palms of sky water, fingers of rain,
    Smoke in dreams — and steps accumulate,
    Placing first one foot, then the other,
    Pacing out the long-gone rip-rap of the years.

    Below the snow ghosts bloom beneath
    Drifts of leaf-shimmer and billowed veils
    Of a wind whose whispers echo back
    Across the stone distances singing
    To the tempo of your gasping breath:
    “Once only, once only, once only, only once.”

    You rest above the stream’s ravine,
    Flanked by sentinels of stone, of fir,
    Of trees so tall their tops dissolve
    Into the breath of the mountains
    Where ebony glints of Ravens’ wings
    Fade to green on darker green.

    Below it’s all been settled long ago.
    Only on foot, stone step by stone step,
    Can you climb up, climb beyond,
    Climb Out of time — except for what
    You carry on your back; that gossamer
    Thread unspooling back to the Maze.

    At the Crest, looking back, looking deep down below,
    Mountainsides of mule deer graze beneath burnt pylons
    Where a survey crew maps out their sad stunted river
    For a grid made of maybes, of glassine and coiled copper,
    To power their Matrix that shall melt into shadow and fade.

    Above, the mountains’ stone shoulders shatter the rain.


    1. I started trying to read this yesterday, with my daughter’s Taylor Swift cranking out of the kitchen, and my son’s frenetic Fortnite commands being shouted in the TV room. I don’t know what real life is, how or if it differs from poetry, or when. But I know there is a call for quiet that I too rarely find. I guess that’s why there are trails to the summit to begin with. And stone shoulders to be carried on.


  2. “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.”

    ― William Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads

    In tranquility is the state to be sought.

    And yes this Cascades poem has technical problems I haven’t put in the work to solve so it does need to be sounded too slowly to be really effective. A good poem would crush Taylor Swift under the heel of its iron boot.


    1. A poem is a “momentary stay against confusion.”

      – Robert Frost (severely clipped quote)

      I’m working through technical problems on a nearly complete (aren’t they all?) poem to add to the PNW collection. I’ll be in the car at my daughter’s soccer practice for 90 minutes tonight, looking for Wordsworth’s tranquility. It’s surprising how productive that environment has been for me – the cockpit of a large family SUV, a garishly lit parking lot. None of the usual trappings of the muses. But we take it where we can. Where it finds us.


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