For Leslee Freeman

1. From the Stone House

This is the rock, hard as resentment, climbing crag
upon crag to cap those long ribboned southern beaches.
Weathered upthrust, this will stand surrounded by fog-whorls,

obscured by the outline of the sea and the mist rising
from sea itself. Persistent Scotch broom clings to the hillside,
flourishing in salty hardship, sandblown half-naked,

bare on the windside and bent against the mountain.
This is the rock, defiant postern of silence,
an illusion of power, a rogue, a geologic fist

clenched in the face of the constant, victorious sea.

2. From the Trail

In here, air rings with memory--misery whips pulled back
and forth in rhythm whined between wet slices of wood,
resonated against the pith like fiddles in a Triple-C camp.

Half-light here. The soil never dries--it sinks beneath our feet
as if rotted. We take our bearings by witch's hair, by orange-edged
fungus protruding from spruce stumps; we ignore the moss

as it ignores the sun. This dampness feels welcome;
rain refuses to soak in and forms beads on the rusty underside
of licorice fern. This is the underbelly, a little truce

between bursts of fire, the silence at the core of being.


Stuslaw Bay, Oregon, September 1994

The dock felt like it rocked beneath us; the gray-green
water churned below the surface, flashing white or dull silver

as the salmon ran upriver. Auntie Peg would laugh and say,
Usta be you could walk across the river on their backs.

She'd lower the motor of her boat gently, ease into the channel,
adding her presence to the dotted pattern of sporting boats

like measles on the water from the jetty to that place, miles inland,
where the water narrowed and shallowed into a cold, rocky creek.

She is dead now fifteen years and the river is empty, neither boats
nor fish, nothing to break up the empty space but the dark skeletons

of abandoned fish traps. On the radio, sportsmen, boat owners
and native peoples all argue about who will cast the last line,

who will land the last Chinook. Old-timers shake their heads,
lay blame, remain as confused as the harbor seals that sun themselves

on sandbars, puzzled by this chronic hunger.

© Kel Munger

These poems were previously published in The Fragile Peace You Keep: Poems (New Rivers Press, 1998). Her second collection of poems, If the Creation Had Lasted as Long as the Firestone Strike, will be published by The Partisan Press later in 2005.