when the marble turns
to icy brown
it never occurs to him
or any of them
is more fragile
during the evenings and weekends
my grandfather photographs with wide smiling lens
a trio of feinting goats, a bride embracing
a giant Hermiston watermelon, an overflowing
orchard basket of speckled Golden Delicious,
Wanapum men scooping salmon
from the Columbia rapids with broad-arcing nets,
my hand grasping toward the flame
of the blue candle on my first birthday cake
During the days he records
with white-hot flash and sparkle
every fissure, crack, trickle and leak
in hundreds of miles of pipes and fittings
thousands of valves, millions
of rounded rivets and hex head bolts,
every endless connection
to the one hundred and seventy-seven
underground storage tanks
when the news arrives
that Hiroshima burst ripe
and burned like a juicy orange,
the Fat Man crushed Nagasaki
to grape ember and ash,
entire families rendered
to black syrup and charcoal stains,
the military reveals to the workers
their part in this proud harvest
they scoop the marbles,
burnished brown by radiation,
in round handfuls
as souvenirs for the kids
and curious tourists,
visible evidence of the power
and the fifty-seven metric tons
placed in sixty-thousand weapons
they entomb eight reactors
and fifty-three million gallons of dregs
in cement to decay to harmless dust
over an eternity, a job well done.
They remove and bury the cancer
and surrounding structures
including my grandfather the photographer,
my grandmother, their four children
who marveled at the marbles in their hands.
"Hanford" was first published in 2009 Verseweavers and was the winner of the Oregon State Poetry Association's Spring Poet's Choice contest.
This roller coaster coffin
injected into the wintering city like a pyroclastic flow
a full-veined contrast solution.
My body ratchets along methodically
CAT scan slow,
clicking smoothly forward, merciless.
I plan, calculate, and queue
every breath a chambered bullet.
Who sees my future?
This journey tastes of shaved aluminum,
smells like mentholatum and ice.
Anonymous, cold, ergonomic,
I stand on this sterile Portland Streetcar.
It’s pale anesthetic green gunmetal thorax
sectioned like sheets knotted together,
twisting—elastic. Time stretches in a pull of white taffy.
Freeze. Don’t move or shatter.
When will numbness cease?
This vehicle I own, but I’m not the driver
just a sideways tracking passenger.
an anonymous blur.
A process for red and green lights
and other invisible breaks and pauses.
I want to see this X-Ray of my mind,
close my eyes and with magnetic resonance
locate shallow silver tracks.
Have I been a good man?
This answer comes without vowels
in a language I cannot decipher.
Electric letters, many transparent shapes and shades
bone florescent white and gray
displaying whispers, faint fricatives, and epileptic consonants.
The route defined, but destination indefinite.
Someone else judges this map.
Waiting, waiting, waiting
Where is my stop?
First published in Willamette Week. Winner of the "Smokin Word" Poetry Contest.
The deaf man,
fly fishing for salmon
hooks my ear and without looking,
half drags me like a loose tree branch
across the ruddy clay bank
until my father moving
more like a Yukon grizzly than a man
tackles him from behind.
Diving into the pool,
we hang in the air,
my head presses sideways against his back,
my elastic arms wrap around his chest.
Until we scoop into the water
deep like a whale and its pup,
investigating the bottom,
cracked and fissured by the Alaska cold.
Behind everyone's back
my careful mother snaps color
photos of my father
in his casket.
She said she wants a picture
of him in uniform.
I am the only witness. Later,
along with his flag, she gives one to me.
In a dust free
corner of my dresser
rests my sole inheritance.
Finally, after thirty-one years,
I know why I keep them.
It is transparent
like a painting on glass,
transparent and fragile.