Just as I wonder whether it's going to die, the orchid blossoms and I can't explain why it moves my heart, why such pleasure comes from one small bud on a long spindly stem, one blood red gold flower opening at mid-summer, tiny, perfect in its hour. Even to a white- haired craggy poet, it's purely erotic, pistil and stamen, pollen, dew of the world, a spoonful of earth, and water. Erotic because there's death at the heart of birth, drama in those old sunrise prisms in wet cedar boughs, deepest mystery in washing evening dishes or teasing my wife, who grows, yes, more beautiful because one of us will die.
I came here nearly forty years ago,
broke and half broken, having chosen
the mud, the dirt road, alder pollen and
a hundred avenues of gray across the sky
to be my teachers and my muses.
I chose a temple made of words and made a vow.
I scratched a life in hardpan. If I cried
for mercy or cried out in delight,
it was because I was a man choosing
carefully his way and his words, growing
as slowly as the trunks of cedars
in the sunlit garden.
Let the ferns and the moss remember
all that I have lost or loved, for I carry
no regrets, no ambition to live it
all again. I can’t make it better
than it’s been or will be again
as the seasons turn and an old man’s heart
turns nostalgic as he sips his wine alone.
I have lived in Cascadia, no paradise
nor any hell, but both at once and made,
as Elytis said, of the same material.
A poor poet, I studied war and love.
But Cascadia is what I’m of.