On freezing nights when the river settles, the reflection of city lights is clearer than the real lights. She views this better on the bridge, her winter pilgrimage.
Colder than the air, she grips its handrail. Her hands pull away only at the moment she can’t feel them. It’s that pain she’s after, of her hands warming up after they’ve become numb, filled with little sparkles, needles, the slow throb back to movement.
But the lights found on the river’s surface hold a deeper meaning than pain for her.
She trusts the reflections more than real lights. They have a glimmer that’s missing from the real thing. She knows this not to be true. She knows the side of reflection is fiction, but, in a way, she believes that her wishing, a wishing so deep, so intense, begins to create an alternate reality.
She thinks… No. She knows there are millions of others just like her, wishing as she does. And with that power, alternative realities are coming into being, piece by piece, wish by wish.
Someday she’ll attempt to reach the reflections.
For now, she will settle for a hand on the railing, looking…looking…until she’s numb…again.
She’s on her tiptoes.
This warm winter makes the creek scream like spring.
I dip my hand in, as far in as my long sleeves let me
Smooth stones, slick, cold life, years in my hands.
My fragile blood beats, knows the water by heart.
It’s good to be wary of the speed of the current
where it licks up upon the shore, sure feet are never a given.
It can bite you, gently, or with unforgiving teeth.
Its noise covers all voices, who’ve come beyond the falls
I head for snow level, it’s high for this time of the year.
Pine needles dot its surface like a mild sprinkling of spice.
Towhees, ravens, and buntings call with haunting songs
An echo between their voices, moves with the forest, downhill.
There, below, near the river and I-84, the creek is a maiden jumping.
Thousands of selfies, one tripod, a few point and shoots
attempt to catch her in the act of hitting the ground.
She refuses to pose.
Running through the mud, laughing like a feral forest child with no concept of language. My body, the only means of communication, flying down Macleay creek trail, passing the Witch’s House. I swear I float above the trail. Then on Wildwood, even the sounds of the shipyards can’t humble my magic. I am the mud, the fern, the bobcat, the pygmy owl, hunter of twilight, snapping, gulping foggy sunbeams poking their shadows between slender conifers. I look to my skin to see if it’s on fire. There aren’t flames, at least the kind one can see. And it does not burn in the sense of pain, but from inside me.
Dragging my untied shoes in Sunnyside, my feet like claws on the pavement. Closing the car door, running shoes dangling from my hand, they are stuffed with a couple of twenties, debit card, license, house keys. My limbs ache for a shower and a beer. Kids from the school pass by, laugh. My body, the only means of communication, hands, red, wrinkled, veins and arteries…caked mud on my knees. I am the transient, the poor, a beggar, schizo. The sun is a fool and a lover. I look to my skin to see if it’s on fire. Ashy. The kids aim their cellphones at me.
Out on the ledge, the snow hushes the wild.
This kind of quiet soothes while it scares
Strange mixture of awareness.
A lone northern harrier is the only singer.
She strafes the powder with one beat of her wings
Eyes on everything, including me.
I follow the trail by footprints.
Cougar’s, coyote’s, and smaller critters’.
An occasional imprint veers off
Into the untouched soft carpet
An outlier perhaps, a rebel, a seeker
Leading to a bush, taller pines,
The wind won’t care for you here
Hides, waits to spring, to pounce.
I look over my back into the still.
It’s only the silence stalking me.
I shiver either from fear or cold
Interrupted by the occasional cracking of stray ice.
I will not let the wind trick me
Taking me too close to the ledge
Though I can’t help but peek
Over the edge, down near the warm river
Where I imagine soothing voices, movement
If such things exist.
The ledge fools you with a number of beliefs
Including the truth.
The apparition of these fare inspectors in the crowd;
Donuts with icing, cream filled full.
She knows me.
Though, I haven’t seen
All that she is…..
All her anger and angst
Frozen at times, treacherous.
I know her
From the safety of my footing.
She can pull me, She pulls me, I am pulled
Not by ebb, but by longing
A craving for our meeting.
She allows me to see her.
I am but painted doll
Easily tripped into a fall.
We are cyclic, together.
Friends as we are
I see her placid face
Fierce, reflecting sky.
Her cheeks aged, rippled
As they were at the beginning.
She’s my crone
My witch of calm
With wavy hair
The straightening of her tides.
Her voice, mesmerized magnetic
To my metal ears.
Grounded by emotion
She nudges me
To a rhythm depth tone.
My womb vibrates
With her motion
At the same time
I am her birth.
Her movement is mine
I am she, like her,
With liquid body
Skin of whatever color
You wish to call me
We are deep in wrappings
Around dense mineral
Earthen cultrate creatures
Terrestrial mud makers
That simple creation act
Pottery, clay, and figure
Shaped by moisture
Solidified by solar storm.
I feel like she is forever
I know by kindred.
We raise our spirits
(For me, this once)
To mist and cloud
Until our salt
Is yanked from our souls
And we fall
To new fawns
If I were to say
“Listen to her”
You would have
‘Twas the vinegar that tippeth
Toward the leftover quiche
Oh, lonely empty bottle, recycler boon
When sun meets to kiss moon—
And mustard, your yellows bold
A bit old, but still at play—
Mummified lime, plastic lined
Awaits blessed water of the fizzy kind—
Four salad dressings,
Daughters of the virgin oil—
Bright Wednesday’s sauce
Must find solace at all cost
Before the scourge of poisoned moss—
A couple of red jellies
To keep a merry belly
Harvested during the sweetness
Of His grand spring—
A dire few leaves of spinach
Must be eaten in a pinch
Or thrown into a stew anew
Cat food can, oh my love be content
Yet, small miracles abound
In these cool vestiges—for—
Behind the onion skins
And forgotten slice of apple
My hand moves with assured fate—
Look at what Providence hath left!
A cold beer is found no less!
O, wonderous workings, I’m blessed.
“This is a warm rain, an uncommon rain. It feels too nice and the sidewalks don’t like it. It gets into their cracks, swelling, expanding, like my blood feels when a warm drop hits my arm.”
“Your eyes look so worried when you tell me things like that.”
“They do? I don’t think I’m worried, but I am at the same time. I can’t help feeling like I’m two rhythms, pounding together. Each drumbeat telling me a story. I can hear two clearly. Fuck, maybe more.”
The rain becomes a light drizzle.
“Another story just started. You must think I’m weird.”
“Sure, I like it.”
“I’m weirder than that. I don’t feel anything, just everything. Or I don’t feel everything, just anything. Does that make sense?”
“Yes, kind of. I understand what you mean.”
The rain stops. Only drips are heard, falling off gutters and tree limbs.
“It’s so humid. That’s not normal for around here. And it’s changing for good. There’s nothing we can do about it—it’s like those stories, those drumbeats. I can’t seem to find an end to them. I want them to end, but I don’t.”
“You can try. That’s what you’ve always done. Don’t worry, it’ll work out.”
“They keep my interest, but somehow they seem to be waiting for something. Look how fast the steam is rising from the streets. You know, I think we’re like the steam. First, we’re like rain touching the street, then we move on.”
The sun pokes its heat out from behind a cloud.
“Sometimes I want to touch you like no one has ever touched you before, but I only have these hands and they’re like everyone else’s.”
“I like the way you touch me.”
“Are my hands warm? I know I can be cold sometimes. There are different ways to touch.”
A couple of heavy raindrops fall unevenly from the sky. As if another downpour is about to occur.
“Is all rain alike? I swear each raindrop hits the ground differently. I notice stuff like that. It’s soothing to me to listen to each storm, how they are so different from one another. Do you think it might be true, that each raindrop creates a new life?”
“I don’t know. If you say so, then, I guess it could be like that.”
“The rhythms increase when I don’t hear the rain. It’s like dry voices chattering away, not making sense. I can make one or two of them out, for a while, then I write them down. Then, I come back to read them. It’s gibberish, all just a bunch of gibberish.”
The clouds part creating large stretches of blue sky.
“The rain is always stopping. Can I touch you now? I need to know.”
“Will it help?”
She had her voice and it was buried deep inside in a place so sacred, so lonely. Only occasional tears that sprung up within the course of a life could witness it in raw form. When she sang, she camouflaged it with a myriad of spices, electricity, effects, grace notes, some call magic…knowing that if a song were stolen, a particular special song…her raw voice, that depth of melody, would find its way back. It had never left nor would it ever leave.
But it was when her best friend stole a song that she became impatient. She decided not to wait for her voice to return. She confronted her friend who had hidden the theft by a distance of distortion, waves of unsettled motion. The demand she made caused ripples, heat, heat, heat, until the voice returned, even though if she had waited, it would have returned on its own. A costly mistake. She is now avoided.
Her gift. Her curse.
You can hear her if you are very quiet, compassionate, through the most menacing noise. The noise…now…will never leave us.
There’s a quietness about the river
broken by a random leap, splash of steelheads.
a prairie hawk loses a feather.
The natives drink a loud liquor
on their fishing platforms, dip nets
looking for fish who choose
to become parts of ceremonies.
The valley refracts strong light
that moves with the quiet.
Hills are made of dead gold,
skeleton orchards, lost spirit guides.
Bear scat litters small pastures
where the river overruns its banks,
forming shallow pools.
I’m cautious like a fool and listen.
The sun sets earlier here.
I knew that going in
I’m searching for rain or shadows
They only last for a short period.
My phone drops, small echo
Black screen on slick green moss
I yell for some reason
Maybe to prove I can make a sound
The sun throbs red…west…hovers
next to the peak of Mt. Hood.
Highway 14 yanks at me with its noise
where occasional deer lie still
on the shoulder of its pavement,
small trickle of blood in their teeth.
Dusk is as good as night here.