Three Poems from Washington State, Part I
My back is too injured to drive
So I ride the Amtrak from Seattle to Portland—
A short jaunt past barely dormant volcanoes—
But I rent a small sleeping compartment
So I can lie flat during the four-hour trip.
I fall asleep, of course, and dream
Of my ancestors, those Spokane Indians
Who still fished for wild salmon.
Those wild salmon are ghosts now.
As are my ancestors. But what did
My grandparents think when they first saw
A locomotive? Did they know
Those trains would change everything?
They would bring millions of white people.
They would bring the wood and metal
And wire. They would bring heat
And electricity and books and alien
Fruits and vegetables. I imagine my grandparents
Grew to hate the trains. I imagine their ghosts
Hate the trains, too. But I am one indigenous man
Who has forgiven the past. Well, I’ve forgiven
Trains, at least. Or maybe I love
Trains now because they are still loud
And they have grown old. These trains
Are the grandparents of those cars
On the highway and those airplanes in the sky.
These trains are always threatened to be replaced
With something faster, something more sleek
And contemporary. But I love the slow roll
Along the tracks. I love the frequent stops.
I love the way these trains have barely changed.
So, maybe, if something new lasts long enough,
Then it becomes something ancient and sacred.
Maybe this train is my grandmother. After all,
My train cradles me as I sleep. It holds me
In one calm and dark place, as everybody else
Quickly streams from one place to the next.
Oh, Grandmother Train, I know I rarely visit,
But I still need you. Next time, I will ride with you
Over a river that is still filled with wild salmon.
Grandmother, we’ll sing through every switch and detour.
We’ll praise all of those good things that somehow endure.
Sonnet in Yakima Canyon
Mary Eliza Crane
In afternoon play of light and shadow
across the canyon, the pale-green flush
of early grass, muted blue
of new grown sage, and yellow flash
of balsamroot are scrutinized
in the watchful gaze of bighorn sheep.
Sure-footed, bounding through the scree,
quench their thirst at a mountain creek.
This scene should be eternal, but it’s not,
though its history is written on the rocks
in ocher, black and gold, for anyone
who cares to learn the language.
There’s truth if not beauty in the knowledge
that nothing turns out quite the way we thought.
Here Is Where We Are
Claudia Castro Luna
I have always
wanted a house
with a big porch
said my friend
on our walk
that way I can sit,
drink my coffee
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.