Archival Features, Poems

J. W. Marshall: “Steilacoom and South”

Late summer, and even the gods need a little R&R.  J. W. Marshall shares a few thoughts on this poem’s experience:

I find I’m liking local poems as long as they are not shackled to an incident. And I like experiential poems when the experience happens within the reading/writing of the poem, not when the experience is something the poem points to from a distance. And I like thinking of the poem as an excursion, like a train ride, getting on at the first word and off at the last. Steilacoom and South does report an experience on a Seattle to Portland Amtrak ride but hopefully the ride on the poem is three dimensional, four counting time, in and of itself.

Steilacoom and South

We were gods on holiday
who’d stumbled on
a local god at work. Until then
no one had been loud.
Look at that!
the boy said and we
who swam along with him
inside the Amtrak Coach did look.
A man stood in a boat as
ingenious as a button
in a button hole.
The sun threw echoes
all across the water.
Pole bent hairpin in one hand
with a net in his other he
ladled up a King from
the dazzle. Though he couldn’t hear
we sang a brief applause to him
that trailed off just how
a salmon sounds
in the bottom of an aluminum boat.
And next we passed of note
a field of stumps and tractor ruts
sign on the fence there reading
More Estates Are Coming.
Then came Portland’s string of condos
like stacks of glassy tackle boxes
and the speaker’s admonition
Don’t forget your luggage
when you leave.

J. W. Marshall‘s poetry has appeared in several magazines, most recently Raven Chronicles, Seattle Review, Talisman, and Field. His first full-length collection, Meaning A Cloud, won the 2007 FIELD Poetry Prize and was published in 2008 by Oberlin College Press. He, along with his wife, Christine Deavel, owns and operates Open Books, a poetry-only bookstore in Seattle.