Elwha

The Reverend Andrew J. Smith, S.J. Poetry Award
Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

I

I sometimes return. To that river’s island where

we hid as children, running but

defiant still. Hiding from time, that

old bastard, though we were bastards too,

satisfied to bask on the river’s island, backs

turned to the mountain that birthed it

And who are we to call time old anyway.

True,

we were always relieved to find the island

still there, but the winter was long and the melted

snow had washed the errant blood from her

stony floor. Back when we were immortal, and our concern was spent

on the face of a body that had watched the

births of our grandfathers instead of the direction we were

Running


II

Time flowed, eventually

sweeping me away. Far from the river,

to this place where the island was

a closed door or insolent stance. But the

isolation sought and found was

False.

Water died in gutters, tangled in

gasoline or snared in vessels raised

to spurious conquests of Wild, that

she-devil. Men hide in cities

obscured by rusted clouds, but

it is hard to run through stalled

columns of steel where the exhaust

will choke you

while you stop to check the time


III

You cross the native surge, hoping for a

glimpse of callow summer, but Mark can’t

leave work and Collin is locked with

viperous needles. Phillip lost his virginity on this island

the day after you left and you wonder if he remembers

as he stares into the fire, silence flooding

the stones, threatening to stifle

the embers. But you don’t suppose you forget

something like that. Look instead to the trees

that breach the maculate sky and realize that they die

as well. Cross the dams, covered in earth, to burn

more. Reject the guilt that bites

when you realize that Phillip will be coming to this island

long after you stop. He lives down the road, after all,

and you’re both chasing something that died in the

flood