Sailing to Keystone: Salute Abaft

The ferryboat churns toward Keystone,
a rumbling enterprise of gulls and salt sea-spray;
and there's old brick and wood Port Townsend, Victorian,
Good Willed, receding on the bluffs.

Peering out over the fantail,
Hui and I try, but cannot see
Finn Wilcox striding through the town,
hirsute and handsome as Che Guevara,
dressed like Bo Jangles for a night on the "jungle."

This is the poet who thinks
a grant's a president's name
of the street that runs by his house,
and needs not apply
to live on it.

A man,
who in cold shadowy boxcars
has passed among the American hobo
in camaraderie and seen enacted
the unheralded resurrection
of a Willie, a Crumbie Willie, or a Zoo
from inside their burrows of old cardboard
from the depths of their cheap-wine dreams:

an ascension, a hoisting on air again
of the scarecrow's nailed sticks,
lurching forward on old train-legs,
arriving at the kingdom
of the morning-sunlit door--
O sky! O flashing cinematic trees!--
and tossing out of it
the one rag bundle,
and after it, the one rag self
(to re-animate old clothes and ride again)
as creaking predetermined trains bang
and slow entering policed switchyards
of Idaho or California;

raised in Klamath Falls,
ran away as a teen from home
and stayed mostly ran away,
wandered and got picked up
years later on the road to Mossy Rock
by our long-hair, crew-hungry foreman,
Jess Miller--"Where ya headed, guy?
Need some money?"--and plunked down

on the noble-fir slopes
of the dammed Lewis River, later to go on
to plant--in ash, mineral soil and duff--
nearly a million trees
in the "spiritual weather" of Western Washington;

despite the corkboots and taste
for hard work, is one of the softest touches
you'll ever be lucky to know,
an historical Huck Finn,
known among the sacrificed
as the guardian angel
of the dumpster,
the crew truck and the sod;

who loves his wife;

who (we're still peering out over the ship's wake)
is surely just now
headed out to his
new writing shack at water's edge

below the ruins
of our earliest zendo;
the shack, where,
when he showed it to us
on a slope among sword ferns,
sunlight was crashing in
from sea and sky
through its big frame windows;
and the undulating bay,
translucent as a jellyfish,
smooth as agate, was whispering,
I sensed, a whole bunch of poems his way,

right where he's decided
to sit himself down,
and catch one, maybe two.

Mike O'Connor | Listen
Contents | Mudlark No. 7