by W. Todd Kaneko
You will find no herons perched
in this poem. No salmonberries or pine
cones on sodden paths through cedar.
But here is an old woman who slices
her calendar into weeks lost and weeks
to come—those piles sifting together
while she waits for the leaves to turn
into blankets full of moths and ravens.
Here is a girl who dwells in dollhouses
deep in this poem, porcelain boys hiding
fingers from whales’ teeth and butterfly
knives. There are no miles of shoreline
lapping at ends of days like wolves,
no fishladders swarming with sockeye,
only a skeleton where the ocean once was.
Extinction begins as absence, ends gaping
like a surgery, a hole in my chest
marking that mythology we call home.
Mount Rainier does not drift phantomlike
in this poem, but here is that old woman,
crooked under the weight of a century.
She waves off that flock of dark birds
thronging overhead, threatening to pluck
eyes from sockets, tongues from mouths,
until all we can discern is the tide washing
over bare feet, the sound of wings.
(“Northwest poem” previously appeared in Lantern Review and is reprinted here today with permission from the poet.)
W. Todd Kaneko lives and writes in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His stories and poems can be seen in Puerto Del Sol, Crab Creek Review, Fairy Tale Review, Portland Review, Southeast Review, Blackbird and elsewhere. He has received fellowships from Kundiman and the Kenyon Review Writer’s Workshop. He teaches at Grand Valley State University.
Editor’s Note: In response to today’s poem I say, “Thank God for stunning moments in poetry!” If not God, then The Universe, Creative Energy, The Muse. Here’s to W. Todd Kaneko’s muse, at the very least. She is a creature to be awed and honored.