Winter in this island town where dreams are spent
like snapping kindling, the cold shakes us into the
roar of hoses spraying, water falling in sheets, red
emergency lights rotating across snow. We wait
until the firemen find her body—our niece. Not
another one—another one. The expectancy of fire
ignites within us, around us—our old houses, faulty
wiring, wood heat, and empty pockets, rage through
us with a flash of heat and choking ash, and the
New Year's siren hail.
Captain Jack’s Head
I passed the fire-eaters, the fat lady,
sword swallowers to stare at your head,
Kintpuash—Red Judas—Captain Jack,
your closed eyes searching inward
following the Lost River.
Yet, I thought of another: St. John,
his head parading around the tent revival
circuit; their halleluiahs, his war cry.
St. Jack, embalmed in history, a guest
of betrayal at King Herod’s banquet
in the Smithsonian Carnival.
The Real Story Is Not What She Told Her Father
How she met Raven in the forest,
when she first heard his invitation
croaking through trees—low-throated cluck,
ear tufts upright, his black eyes pooling
like paint in an artisan’s cup. She felt
the brush of hair feathering across her back,
tree-pitch sticking her thighs.
He plucked a hemlock needle from her
slickened skin, placing it upon her
tongue and with it she swallowed earth,
allowing his flight toward her center.
Inside, his wings caressed those ancient
carvings, plucked clusters of red berries
dangling from branches, tasted the tang
of her luminosity—an explosion loosened
from the bentwood box. And later he would
remember that the flash of light carried
a scent of freshly carved cedar, that he cried out
as the floor beneath him shifted. It was
not the lover who let slip, but her father
who altered her myth—tattling on Raven,
that trickster who stole the sun, moon, and stars,
releasing her light into all the world.
*In Northwest Coast myth, Raven transforms himself into a hemlock needle
and falls into the Head-man’s daughter’s drinking cup, and the girl becomes pregnant.
Raven is then born into the household holding the sun, moon, stars in a box, where he uses trickery to release their light into the world.