Three Poems from Washington State, Part V
This Is Why the Relationship Might Work
Because the call of shorebirds wakes me
and this morning I watched a seagull
sunbathe on a wine-colored Camaro.
Because the air offers up notes of saltwater
and scrub rose whenever I walk out the door
even if I’m on the way to the grocery store.
Because the wine, because Walla Walla—
and Hendrix. Because we travel
by ferry and the world’s longest floating bridge.
Because flocks of joggers along Alki Beach
nod a quick hello like gold finches
keeping apace to the beat of black wings.
Because tumbleweed and tulip—
fish ladder and the Looff Carousel—
because we have declared an official oyster.
Because hemlock, because humans who plant
sungold tomatoes and build boats from cedar and oak
Because I picked you from all 50 states
to be my valentine of sweet
onions and jazz apples. Because the rain.
Because someone chose a piece of petrified wood
for the state gem—and because without
the journey out West, we would never have met.
At the Ballard Locks Fish Ladder
Do you think the giant squid
ever touches itself,
wandering a tentacle
in a documentary voice?
And it attacks one limb with another?
Not the best table topic for a couple
stepping into a mortgage.
Under the locks
the sea shifts a shoulder.
If only belief were truth!
A sardine is anything you get out of a can.
A couple walks into a house.
The spire stabs the heart
of the sun’s deviled egg.
The algae is never gone,
the damp gropes under the house’s blouse.
Is this the worst mistake you ever made?
Those that make it arrive in ragged condition, spawn
and die. It is hard not to be sad around salmon.
Fungus grows from their wounds.
If only the poem could turn here!
Fish are finding their way home with special nostrils,
U-turns of scent, back to the river of their birth.
Watch them leap, watch them batter themselves
against the rocks, watch them thrash through the air,
leaping arguments against compromise.
Walla Walla Sweets
Grandpa once chomped into the white layers
of an onion as if it were an apple.
Got a whole crate you could eat like fruit
they’re so mild, he said, chewing a smile
then trotted back down to the dock
to prep another boat to sail.
We scattered his ashes there today, simply—
no funeral, no casket, no last hug or kiss,
no chance to lean into
the faint scent still wafting off his lips,
to breathe and carry year upon year
the essence of a life so sweetly lived.
WA129 is a collection of poetry gathered from the people of Washington State. Compiled and edited by 2016-2018 Washington State Poet Laureate Tod Marshall, the book features poetry by amateur poets alongside acclaimed writers including Sherman Alexie, Tom Robbins, and Tess Gallagher. The collection includes 129 poems—one for each year of statehood. The book is published by Sage Hill Press and is available on Amazon as well as at independent bookstores throughout the state. An online version of WA129, featuring an expanded selection of poems, will be available during summer of 2017.