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These Days


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.

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