II. Fire Season
The sun rises red
Like a portent
And all day the sky is dense
With something that’s too flat for clouds,
Too brown for mist.
Where the mountain should rise
Snow-capped on the horizon
Cool and calming
There is only blankness.
Even the city
Off the point
Is fainter than the distance justifies.
It is easy to fear
That it could disappear entirely
Making the sea lions
Wailing on this buoy
Off the digit of this grass-tufted bluff
On this small island
The end of the world.
The Northwest was for a me a clear-aired place.
When I flew back from college, in the East
I would breathe deep its freshness
With its spring of sea
So different from the heaviness and closeness
Sometimes I had to flee the West
And its crisp practicality.
Sometimes I craved that air more silk than cotton,
Spangled with the words of artists
Smoking on their stoops.
But what a relief to know what waited
Welcoming me home.
Until this latest homecoming.
The smoke thickened the air
Like moisture, even though it was a proof of dryness,
Blocking breath and vision
Like the premonition of a shroud.
But then one night the wind blew
And the sky cleared
And the next day the air and Sound
Stretched blue and sweet
Towards where the mountain should have been.
There, true, I saw only white.
But I had lived other days like that
In childhood summers
When the city haze had blurred the mountain’s lines.
And now I could imagine
The light would take its shape.
It was a day out of the Augusts of my memory.
And I wondered if that’s what we will call them, in the future—
“Memory Days”: When the weather, rarely,
In any given place, at a given time,
Does what we once trusted.
Seattle gleams again
Bright and sharp-edged from the point
Vancouver named Restoration
When he moored his ‘Discovery’
Off its bulging cliffs in 1792.
Before that name, the Squamish Tribe
Canoed past the red-lined bluffs
And discovered personalities,
Called the point Picking Out Different Faces
After their travel game.
Even my nostalgia
Is someone else’s shattered certainty.
When some young Squamish men
First watched Vancouver’s ship
Interrupt their view of sky and sea
They thought an island had come loose.
Perhaps their eyes mistook,
But did something in them understand
That this was the end of their world?
Image Credit Olivia Rosane