I am in love with this mountain
that all summer long threatens to kill
my father. Swallow him in the pale blue
Emmons, crush him beneath an avalanche
or send him sliding down the Kautz –
his crampons failing on pre-dawn ice.
This mountain I love will one day knock
on the door of my mother’s home,
unearth the graves of my relatives
and carry hyacinths and cofﬁns
down the Duwamish, out into the Sound.
What I meant when I said goodnight
Stay until the bats retire and, drunk on stars,
the moon trips over the horizon; until Orion
unbuckles his belt, our skin solves the equation
for dew point and the owl splits the night into whispers;
until we have read every black knot on the birch,
written poems to lichen, shared bark with deer
and against our nails they’ve scratched their velvet;
until we are ﬂuent in conifer, seeds mistake
our legs for logs, moss grows from our pores
and crows sleep on our shoulders.
He Is Risen
Great-grandfather spits the earth
from his mouth. He asks for his teeth,
asks for vodka and sputters the only sermon
he knows – No, it was never the axe
but the whispering saw that thrilled me.
He speaks of the valley’s pre-dam rivers, so thick
with ﬁsh he thought they were running silver,
of time before pylons and power stations
when houses were lit from within.
No church in this land, just the dull green spire
of the forest and, somewhere beyond,
the haloed crags. George Vancouver stands on deck
picking pye from his teeth. He’s not thinking
about God, though he worries his men
have forgotten who to pray to. No –
he’s thinking about trees.
Their impossible tallness, their beautiful utility.
What keels they could be, what masts!
To take an axe to the damp and abundant trunks,
to seize the base of a tree in his ﬁst
and strip it of branches, to thrust it like a spear
into the black obsequious water,
to whittle it to a needle
and prod his wretched teeth.
Outward, outward the trees unfold,
the new wood so white he can hardly see.
Her birth is light or so I tell myself
as I am wheeled from bright room
to bright room. Only here it is brighter
because this is the room in which she
is being born. Light because for days
there has been no sleep.
Light because she is cradled
in my body like ﬂame
in a kerosene lamp.
Light does not want to be alone.
It seeks out dying stars, televisions,
even this ﬂuorescent room
of masked faces.
I was told that for her coronation
she would wear my body
as a crown and I would know
the white pain of light.
Corona because what else
can light wear.
But she is not crowning.
Instead, she is rising.
Her body lifted, backlit
by LEDs. Her body glorious
and blazing. Her body
rising as the sun must.
11 Bodies of Water
14 Lake Americana
15 Yellow Jackets
16 Skinny Dip
17 The Desiccation
19 What I meant when I said goodnight
20 The Doe
22 He Is Risen
23 Nisqually Delta Blue
24 Ghost River
35 Theoretical Geographers
36 V is for Vancouver
37 The principled process of deduction
39 Vancouver, dreaming
40 Pseudotsuga menziesii
43 Having considered with impartiality the excellencies & deﬁciencies of the land
44 The burial rituals of the inhabitants
45 In the name of, and for, His Britannic Majesty, His Heirs and successors
46 Your America
48 The death of George Vancouver
49 I dream I am held
51 In the Discovery sloop of war
52 George Vancouver, you are not my father
56 We Have Kissed the Four-legged Gods Goodnight
57 Lunar Distances
61 The Time of Lace
62 American Mustard
63 Cast of an Irish Deer
64 None of us is where we ought to be
65 As ash falls on my mother’s garden
66 What you hold
69 Northwest Passage
BLOODAXE BOOKS LTD Registered Office: Eastburn, South Park, Hexham, Northumberland NE46 1BS, UK Registered Number 1656254 England VAT No 414 4062 89