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.
The forest is last to relinquish winter. Snow still sticking between its toes, it has thousands of shadows and shades, ways to hide from sunlight. On these days of last melt, snow packs down hard on the unexposed trail, creating a thin slice of ice, a layer of water sits on its top.
My hands grip fern, turf, searching for the darkest earth below me. I’m on all fours placing one limb in front of another, hoping to find the firmest soil. I read the forest like braille.
The trail hangs on to the valley as if stapled, tacked on. Cold gusts follow the shape of the mountains, on their way to meet the current of the river.
The Clackamas pays sly attention to my insecure movements. It would take me as I am, all limbs reverted back to bones, a boulder covered in moss, willing to hide me, partially, in its current. The wind and hills will cover my voice.
I refuse to slip.
A warmth curls upwards, the sun finds a clearing. The trees across the river turn gold. My feet hit soft snow. I look back up to the denser part of the forest, I can see light tickle the ribs of the trees, slanting beams down to me. My hands are warm, my eyes tired.