State Poet Laureate Kathleen Flenniken: “I-90 Seattle to Spokane”

Our current Washington State Poet Laureate, Kathleen Flenniken, has graciously allowed us to post one of her poems, inspired by a trip across the state. Humanities Washington also seeks applications for the next state poet laureate; submissions are due Nov. 8.

  • October 16, 2013
  • |
  • Crosspost
  • |
  • By Abby Rhinehart
Kathleen Flenniken

Kathleen Flenniken

Humanities Washington and ArtsWA are currently seeking applicants for the Washington State Poet Laureate. The laureate serves to build awareness and appreciation of poetry — including the state’s legacy of poetry — through public readings, workshops, lectures and/or presentations. Applications are due Nov. 8; visit our website for more information.

Our current Washington State Poet Laureate, Kathleen Flenniken, has been an outstanding ambassador for poetry, with work deeply rooted in Washington and our culture. She has generously allowed us to post one of her poems, inspired by a trip across the state.

I-90 Seattle to Spokane

By Kathleen Flenniken, Washington State Poet Laureate

One tree represents a thousand — no, a million — beyond your view.
One stump a million stumps.
And one tumbleweed —

but there’s never just one tumbleweed.

How many soft ice cream cones
pass hand to hand through the drive-up window?

You pass at 70 a crude white cross erected as a memorial,
caught in the rooster-tail splash of a semi.

Pull in for gas and a half-flat of strawberries
and a child’s face peers from behind a hip
as her father makes change
wishing each in turn a safe journey.

Tufts of cheat grass
punctuated with political signs,
leaning left or right.

Fields of wheat on rolling loess plains, smoothed by wind
into patterns like buttercream frosting.

Water tower. Bare brown hill. Old snow.
The 30-foot-high emblazoned letter “O” or “C” or “R”
and the fierce — remember it — pride.
Bomber pride. Bulldog pride. Blue Devil pride.
Driving a basketball down the lane.
Drawing a shooting foul. For the game. For the game …

You unfold a lawn chair in your mind on that knoll,
on those green velvet foothills. You’ve baited the hook
of childhood and your future. Once, no a thousand times,
staring out a backseat window.

2 thoughts on “State Poet Laureate Kathleen Flenniken: “I-90 Seattle to Spokane””

  1. Andrew Wahl says:

    As someone who has made this drive many times — and who has had one foot on both sides of the Cascades — I think this poem does a beautiful job capturing the flavor of that journey. Kathleen is a treasure!

  2. Mary Jean Lord says:

    Thank you, Kathleen, for being such an enthusiastic, unflagging poet laureate! We appreciated your wonderful visit to Goldendale. I am enjoying reading and re-reading your poems.
    Mary Jean Lord

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