This busy spot, in 1900, was remote,
red and dusty with the Builders Brick
quarry and factory, in the mining boom,
the logging days. Firs, countless,
were as big around as their fellers were tall,
where now a few tame plantings
punctuate the chain cafés and condos
that push into the thinned remains
of second-growth alder.
Filled with miners, Red Town, FinnTown,
White Town, RainbowTown hotels
and cabins erected in the clearcut
are only blemished photos
and foundations mossy and hidden
in bracken between rubbled mine shafts:
Ford Slope mine, Primrose, Bagley,
May Creek mine, Muldoon seam.
Hiking trails follow the old flumes
where hewn trunks sloshed downcreek.
Joggers and dogwalkers erase the ghosts.
Those days, horse-drawn trams lugged coal and logs
down Coal Creek to Lake Washington,
where barges continued the five-day meander
south and then up the Duwamish to the Sound
and Seattle. Steamers then carried on
to California and profit.
A narrow-gauge steam railway ran
where this five-lane arterial now pulses
with its Teslas, Porsches, Maseratis.
Money is still made, these days
and hereabouts, but not from solid things.
Just in the years we’ve lived here,
the horse pasture down the street has gone,
the sheep and llamas, orchards and corn.
We are now more urb than suburb.
But bobcats, bears, coyotes, possums,
even baffled cougars prowl our yards
for food, as their foothills turn
to townhouses in cul-de-sacs,
the roads that reach them,
nail shops and pizza joints,
churches, firing ranges.
The news seems very black these days
unless you think it’s white. Regardless
where you hear it, it sears the heart and eyes.
The earth is evanescent, and solid things seem
illusive, similes morph to lies,
to belief, as easily as that bright
cloud above grows murky as it gathers,
a thick, broken layer flying doggedly north.
The sun peers through the fissures,
warm in a chill wind, and blinding.
My mesmerized retinas
turn black firs against leaden grey
ember-red. It’s a changeable
day. There’s a storm warning for later.
Branches may fall, they say.
Some trees have fallen already
this gusty spring. But forecasts
have been wrong before, pessimistic,
or hoodwinked with unpredictable
conditions. I sit in sunlight when I can,
hope it lasts, but prepare for the blow.
History flows over us, bright and dark,
dissipating and bloating, threat and promise.
Soon we’ll walk trails through new deadfalls,
hunting old foundations in the leafmold.