Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Fort Worden, PAW Board, Rain

On my last full day in Port Townsend, I drove to Fort Worden State Park and took a hike. A large, turn-of-the-20th-century fort, the park now holds Centrum Art Center, Copper Canyon Press, a youth hostel, conference center, gorgeous beaches, and miles of hiking trails. It holds sadness for me, though, as Sam Hamill built Copper Canyon there over many years, only to be forced out last year.

Still, Sam's impact can be powerfully felt. I hiked up behind the Copper Canyon building to Memory's Vault, an art installation incorporating the original concrete vault that held the architectural plans for the fort. The artist placed plaques with several of Sam's poems on pillars at the site -- poems of the natural landscape that surrounds the viewer, poems of contemplation. The effect is very moving, all the more so, knowing that Sam is essentially in exile from that place. You can read two of the poems here: http://www.fortworden.org/art_hill.htm (scroll down).

I took a walk along the beach: Shore birds, the Cascade mountains occasionally peeking out from the clouds across Puget Sound. I called my family on my cell phone so my son could hear the sound of the Pacific Ocean lapping at the beach. I sat at a picnic table and wrote this:

I hold the cell phone to the waves
so Ben can hear the Pacific. But he thinks
it's the whoosh, whoosh of a bad connection.

I tell him I'm on the beach,
a barge is passing, full of red containers,
a ferry, shore birds, dark clouds
across the bay -- it's raining on Whidbey.

Wait, I tell him, the clouds are parting --
just one moment's view --
snow-covered mountains.
I've always wanted to see that, he says,
and sighs. I promise to bring him.

I tell him Sam's poems are on pillars
in the woods. I tell him: shore birds
and driftwood. I make promises.
I miss his Hi, Mom indifference.

You are so lucky, he tells me
when I say I'll bring him here.
And I am, am lucky.

Just as I got back to Gray's car, the skies opened up and it poured down in earnest, raining hard for several hours. I picked up Gray and we collected pizzas for the PAW board meeting that evening. As we headed back to their home, we spotted a complete rainbow over the town, drove toward it in search of gold. We approached the end of the rainbow and it disappeared, of course, as rainbows do.

The meeting was wonderfully productive, outlining the many steps for recruiting more activists and volunteers into the organization. I volunteered DC Poets Against the War for several roles, including being the liaisons to similar, local efforts by other poets around the country. A newsletter is coming soon, feauring updates on the international connections Sam's made and the important efforts by poets in Latin America and India. You can sign up to get the newsletter, if you don't already get it, at the PAW website here.

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