Bridge of the Gods
Cascade Locks, Oregon
Centuries they dreamed of walking across.
Then one side of Table Mountain calved
and slid into the gorge, rubble enough
to hold the river back, an inland sea.
Wind and rain scraped at the rockpile dam,
but the Great Spirit kept it whole
for his people to carry dreams across.
Snow-all-year mountains stood watch
until a quarrel over a beautiful woman
made them crazy and they hurled hot stones.
The ground shook and the bridge of the gods
buckled – rapids in the river.
Centuries more the legend grew
and gave its name to this: a steel truss
cantilever span whose gods make do
with girders, rivets, triangles of stress
to counterbalance north and south
upstream from the hydro dam.
A dollar lets you drive across, no time
for looking down, no room to walk.
Part of Speech
Long Beach, Washington
Not knowing leads me to the water’s edge, a beach
long as a marathon, miles of the same
flat sand, white-tufted sea, the wind a part of speech.
A gravel road, a path, then footprints reach
the grassy dunes – golden – but I came
to go out past them to the edge, the beach.
A ragged bunch once hunkered in Clark’s “dismal nitch”
a few miles south, but nothing here recalls that name.
Just sunlit sand and sea, and wind a part of speech.
The end of distance has to curve and stretch,
the wrinkled sea a painting with no frame.
I walk past knowing to the edge, this beach.
Sandpipers hunt and peck for something, each
a Charlie Chaplin, jitter-quick, their antic game
between the sand and tide, the wind a part of speech.
And yet it’s not a game, their constant search
for sustenance. Nor mine, whose earthbound aim
looks out beyond the edge of knowing and the beach,
to sky and sea, where wind’s a part of speech.