Poems of Place & Displacement


On to the Second Annual Muckrakers' Reunion--
past the Whistling Oyster Tavern,
dry brush season in August,
bring your own water!--read our invitation.
Bordered with brine, on the tip of a peninsula,
near Quilicene on Hood Canal, we pitched camp.

An outhouse faced the Olympics on the bluff.
Custom designed by our host's father
after his son's surgery,
the building's plexiglas roof showcased bronze
starfish shapes of fallen leaves.
Tacked to the walls, travel posters and license plates
spread their compass points from Italy to Norway.

Around the campfires that week, sweet living
emerged from our backpacks: vermouth for oysters,
copies of Experience of Nothingness
(our host's request) to steam open
conversations during each night's driftwood blazes.

When larger cities seared at a hundred degrees,
I slept upon the canvas of my tent, not under it.
In that cipher stand of firs, branches sent
their mobius of dust spiraling
infinities through the salty air.

One night, an architect in our group
cried out from his solar home.
Thrashing through bracken and fallen timber,
we reached his deck, to stare with him at madrona root
nested deep within mineral-leached earth.
Exposed after his digging, the tree's
sea-soaked core sent out centuries of
white-hot, meteoric language,
impelling us to carry back a piece
to our own places in the darkness.

Nagasaki, August 10, 1945
Photo by Yosuke Yamahata

Copyright 2007,  Joan Maiers

Joan Maiers, a UW graduate, teaches writing at Marylhurst University. Her work appears in Calyx, Windfall, Oregon English, and other journals. She is completing a poetry manuscript titled Specific Gravity.

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