by Mark Vogel
How to breathe in Washington State when
everywhere the tall has been pulled down,
and a heavy leaking sky reaches the ground—
when every hundred feet on a straight line road
allows another pothole, another lumberman’s
gate listing owner’s rights, another stream
glutted with mud and prehistoric moss.
How to breathe on a journey covered in grey
overcast, pulled like a magnet toward Olympic peaks—
an imagined mountain lake never inching closer.
How to breathe when the spindly young need
decades to grow trunks, and a million stumps
big as tables rule. When even out here, civilization
breeds bulldozers bigger than ever
imagined, though the map says wilderness lies close.
How to breathe when the immediate is soiled
and bought, and on a hiking trail never made official
toilet paper dissolves in white blobs.
In daytime dream, hordes crowd close, and on
every tree carved graffiti and Hoh lichen form a living
library, though it seems obvious that somewhere else
is a missing language explaining bear/elk/
jay paths, and trout alive in frothing water.
But here is no air to breathe—and in a too familiar
disconnect, I pull to the side, where the car shivers,
and dies, and still the clouds do not part.
Now the Pacific is released and blows in loneliness,
and what seemed fresh and possible no longer exists.
Though the odometer reads 31 gravel miles,
the peaks ahead suggest no progress
has been made. Beside another field of stumps
I know only that if I keep going on this dusty road,
I will never find my way back.