Eagle Feathers and Rainbow

for Imogene Washington Bowen, 1935-2007,

Elder, Upper Skagit Tribe

 

Looking at you now, Imogene, in your

cradle of lasting years, I see you in

our picture on the steps of Rockport School,

two rooms at the foot of your family’s

 

sacred mountain by the river of your

tribe, so many years ago. You are

the pumpkin-faced first grader wearing

a simple wash-dress in the first row,

 

so sober under your freshly combed hair

and new barrette, Imogene. I’m a second-

grader behind you, all frowns and ears sticking

out, my hair slicked-down. I loved your name,

 

Imogene … Imogene. You see,

I still sing it. In minutes now, elders

will carry you away, to lower you

into an earthly bed under boughs of

 

cedar and snow on your sacred

mountain. As darkness hovers, Imogene,

your spirit will rise, an eagle passing

through a rainbow above the river.

 

North Cascades Mountains, WA; (2007)

     

     Mists of Autumn   

for R. W. “Rod”  O’Connor, 1906-1995

 

The clouds hang ominous and gray.

Dusted with snow, Sauk Mountain looms

above Skagit River to the north.

 

The mists of autumn shroud the valley.

 

Steadied by a cane and my brother’s arm,

Rod lingers on a path

through the orchard, now brush and blight,

to what remains of his boyhood home.

 

With voice trembling and eyes tearing,

days before his eighty-ninth birthday,

he recalls the past.

The years collapse.

                               ***

 

My family is Irish-Catholic.

About 1900, they and my aunts and uncles and cousins

settled upriver between here and the Cascade.

 

I was born on Stafford’s deserted ranch

one cold January day in nineteen-oh-six

on the south bank east of Barnaby Slough.

 

Maggie Barrett,

midwife to just about every newborn in the upper valley,

poled her dugout from above Marblemount to birth me.

 

One night, before I was three years old

and we lived in the Mitchell house down by Iron Slough,

a freshet swept out of the hills and flooded our fields.

           

We all climbed a ladder into the attic to sleep

after a washtub floated through the kitchen.

   

Dad rowed to the barn and

let the stock out to higher ground.

 

 

In spring,

when days lengthened and air warmed,

stubbed toes and slivers did not deny us freedom

to shed our shoes and feel plowed dirt and cool sand.

We roused the old cows and soothed our feet

where they had lain.

 

Harkening to bup … bup … bup . . . .

my brothers and  sisters hustled me

through salmonberries and stinging nettles

to an old shack on Smith’s Slough

and told me that the grouse nesting there

were spirits haunting the house.

 

In winter moonlight,

we raced our shadows over frost-crusted meadows,

glided across icy ponds in sheer delight.

 

See these Doug firs crowding the road,

their girths greater than two men can reach?

Look at that barbed wire rusting their hearts.

I was barely ten when they were saplings

transplanted as a fencerow by my father and brother Dave.

Then Dave went to war.

 

Before I was twelve, when school was out,

I walked ahead of the sled team

hauling shingle bolts to the river.

With only gunny sacks to protect my legs,

I carried five gallons of crude oil and

greased skids all day with a dauber of vine maple and hemp.

 

Up the road,

four, maybe five, miles on the way to Uncle Harry’s ranch,

gravel-bottomed springs ran from hillside ravines

to the river and spawning salmon.

Boys no longer fish those shaded pools,

they are all fill and clear-cut now.

***

We linger with Rod in the dooryard of his youth.

So many years lapse in these moments

as a child in his mother's arms.

 

Autumn shrouds the valley.

  
                                Rockport, WA; 1994

 

See Preface/Backstories

Richard Lee Dick Harris

III. Souls Departed (excerpts)

    Memorial Day

for Mark Harris, 1893-1918

 

A cloudless sky,

    a day filled with spring,

    a day to remember those

    who lay in common ground,

Fallen without honor,

    unseen by us,

    whose flags they bore.

 

As volleys resound in sharp salute

    and banners dip to a trumpet’s call,

it is our day to remember

    the plaques that cling to crumbling walls,

    and plead as we pass by:

 

Tell them of us and say,

for your tomorrow,

we gave our today.

 

Bellingham, WA; 1995

See Preface/Backstories