The Accuracy of the Body Testifies
What a joy in the alders right now.
Leaves past yellow but they still break the rain.
At the window, mom sees winter coming
for my father. He sees the grebes. Long necks,
black and white bodies, dummy-red eyes. “More days of rain
and they’ll be gone,” he tells me.
Tinkering, salvaging. For him, this is just another adjustment.
He yanks the flywheel’s cord to test
his wood-gathering gloves on the throttle.
His fingers bulky
like an anniversariy from which the years gradually release.
Saltwater sloshes over the bow.
At the mouth of the Tahuya
I slide down to thread fishing line
inside the bait box.
I wish I could—
but I do not speak. Neither of us do.
Over the vibrations of the motor
I’ve not even looked up from sewing
rancid chicken pieces
into the crab pot. The crabs must surely see
its stiff yellow rope
dropping through the fields of jellyfish, charged appendages
that catch on the pot
then scrape back across the gunwale.
Father gestures out with his beer. “Cormorants
are foul-weather birds. I’m coming to see that.”
And this is where I should say how the padded gloves
make his knuckles look absurd. Or, to him,
why I’ve come home. What admission
to see for myself.
But there has not yet been
that long falling out like sleet
Leaves brown and junked underfoot.
Nor is there yet that memory estranged
of its companions:
red lashes taut on summer skin.
This is the first year he has made a Christmas list.
Paper torn from the notepad by the phone,
single item. Mom covers it
with a magnet and the grocery list.
He talks about cleaning the white-hot barrel, about the amoral
necessity of task, the order of a brain under pressure, freedom of petals
around the white daffodil—
empty herder. Black stars open out back.
The seeds of the house, black
with having passed through his bowels.
Not even the curtain of late daylight
behind him. He is open like a hospital gown.
Mother dreams him fully frontal,
arm around her neck, M-16
pointed at the rest of us encircling. . .
that child atop his ladder
looking down the dull strip of playground slide.
cyanide is leaching from the manioc.
Electrons begin to hustle like flies
until the heat is humming and the workers in the fields
are back out from the cover of a thatched roof
where the woman scalds their calluses.
A machete-pulse punctuates the air.
Grass collapses in the rain-cut channels
and, still, a boy is gone. Stone
stretched between his thumb and forefinger,
one eye cocked, awaiting the flutter
of the double-spurred francolin.
We Huddle Against the Wind
My mother holds up a canopy, a leaded sheet,
to deflect that sunlight
leaping from threshold to threshold.
The backside of each ripple bulges
monastic white cell,
its corners bending at the limit
of candlelight. For a second, I am sympathetic—
lust is a sequence of parentheses
with no words between them. Because with white
Greedy bloom, kept humble by self-cruelty.
The gray moves us in
and the salmon flash against it like barrels of mica.
blocking the sun, birds’ bodies hidden,
minds so uttered…
This alphabet laziness is no place to rest.
Yes, I thought that about you, too. Ramshackled,
leaves clumsy enough to be replaced by snow.
The bears pin down the meadow
to keep it from flying into an avalanche
around your apron.
I have climbed you so many times
I know the holds, hexed limbs,
& run – nub, knot – up
in two leaps
as the avalanche passes beneath— Oh free-standing breath!
’s poems have appeared in Blackbird, Gulf Coast, Puerto del Sol, Poetry International, RUNES and other journals. He received his MFA from Arizona State University in 2007. He directs the non-profit McReavy House Museum of Hood Canal and works as a writer and researcher at Read Right Systems in Shelton, WA. He lives with his wife and their two sons in the Skokomish Valley.