An Old Poem about Erosion and Memory

This is an old poem I wrote that appears in revised form in the Blanket Stories anthology by Ragged Sky Press. It’s inspired by a place I went as a kid, Washaway Beach, Washington.

Washaway

I remember
I've been here before.

On a family vacation
I saw the beach washed away.
We couldn’t drive further.
The highway dove straight into the Pacific,
pavement disappearing under waves.
Chunks of grey concrete,
crumble in the murky surf.

We terrified onlookers witnessed the
broken homes and scattered possessions,
worn-out and weather-beaten.
An empty bathtub, a lifeless bassinet
cradling its driftwood cadaver.
Corroded plumbing stuck out of the sand
like grasping, skinless fingers
pointing desperately towards heaven.

I was ten years old when I saw
those seconds swallowed up.
My home is nothing but a ghost town,
filled with sand. The silent spirits:
those I never really knew,
those who hunted me.
Their death-scent followed me here
as vultures surround me like a halo.

I sit on the shore, the water
darts around my ankles, a new, live birth.
All these grains of sand— uncountable and unaccounted for—
memories I want so desperately to forget,
secrets I know I can no longer keep.
Scatter the remains across the ocean. Walk away.
We will never speak of it again.

First Poem for James Wright

I went to your river

and marveled

at its lonesomeness,

that wildness reflected in

the bingo halls, the Wheeling factories

all empty now.

I looked for your grave

and wished for words.

I thought I heard

something. But it was just

that dirty river, moving past,

keeping its own secrets,

like the dead. I wonder about

my own wasted life.

What can I say to you?

I’ve loved you like no one

else since I first heard

your voice, one dark wing.

Ever since, I’ve searched for you

in truck stops and back alleys,

the polluted waterways of America.

Did you ever really leave Ohio?

When you return, will you find

the same thing as I?

Bamboo Blossoms

when bamboo flowers, famine follows

 

those flowers bring the rats

every thirty years or so

the rats devour it all

flooding the landscape

squirming black appetites

bequeathing us disease

 

we dwelt in phapian paradise

shrouded by our excesses

as the flowers poked carmine noses

out of stalks that lingered

relegated to the garden

gratuitous satanic clockwork

 

we knew we were doomed when

the bamboo leaked indoors

a suffocating canopy

stalks snaking up furniture

angry roots in the carpet

catching ankles and breaking toes

 

once it’s here you can never be rid of it

you have to tear it out by the roots

or burn down the damned house

 

relinquish your sackcloth and gather the ash:

hold it in your cankered hands

it is more precious than gold

it is more filling than dirt

it is more natural than sin