If you listen long to the waves
you will learn to measure distance,
broad strum of wind from the valley,
short pluck and pick from the lake’s edge.
Those mornings when a wing of light
glides up above the bay we watch.
We talk: nothing much. Last night was cool.
The lake is calm. We’ve berries still to harvest.
Dinner: potatoes, grouse, and lettuce and dill
from the garden. Preparing it, I ask,
“Is meaning synonymous with worth?” “Some questions,”
says my husband, “sure make a slow salad.”
September twenty-fourth. The swans and geese are leaving.
Which ones fly first? Are they nervous or wiser?
To the north, a joining of snow
to mountains more luminous than a church.
Port Alsworth: one hundred resident Baptists.
We’re thirteen miles away, and staying. In summer,
dust from the airstrip toils upward and stalls;
a pterodactylic signature of souls.
History’s full of false holds, like this lake
dubbed over, named for Clark. He only passed through once,
with a reporter. Qizhjeh Vena,
the Dena’ina called it. “Many peoples gather.”
We live on sacred ground. Brown Carlson, long gone,
buried his first wife on this plot, and up the hill
a circle of stones for my brother Paul.
O curse us spirits, if we so close, not visit.
Mountain cloud, solo drummer. We can’t beat joy out.
It comes sometimes in the form of color:
rose on scarp and peak just west of Copper,
backdrop rhythm of sky, blue-violet.
Soon it will snow, and rosehips outliving the last
glow of summer won’t survive the storms. Memory,
dried stem, works hard to remember them, like breath,
urging the late night coals to a color almost translucent.