It’s been just about nine months since I last wrote. There’s been the early sunlight of summer, the eager nightfall of autumn, and the monotonous wetness—the homogenous grayness—of winter in Portland. In no way will I try to generalize my experiences over the seasons, but I’d like to provide some glimpses of what it’s been like.
*NOTE: As an effect of the vagueness of this post, and the fact that I just finished a ten week course at Ooligan called Grammar for Writers (check out the anthology of our work: Flash Grammar!!), in which I spent much of my time writing about my experiences in Portland, the nature of this entry is going to be more creative writing based then usual. If you are frightened by poems, unpunctuated, or creative pieces in general, you should probably look away now. I promise my next post won’t be so, well, literary(?).
It was early November, and as the darkness of fall set in heavy, I wrote this poem as I walked home over the Hawthorne bridge from class:
It’s November in Portland and the sidewalks are flaming,
the leaves fallen embers from their branches freezing
and the windows are sealed with our breaths.
The month morning never lifts night falls fast and heavy
blinding us senseless,
lost in black
our toes curl cold and naked
at the crease of our sheets
the furnace rattles, the heat creeps and squeezes
till we stomp through the dark dawn dew.
Frost at six-thirty.
Light at eight.
Another late arrival.
A week later I was lucky enough to attend Christine’s (the author of Food is Food is Food, Right?) brother’s wedding in….Maui!! Let’s just say everything there stood in exact contrast to everything in Portland. Everything. It wasn’t better, (Don’t you get offended you prideful Pacific Northwesterners! I love you.) just different. Here’s one of the pieces (focused on using repetition) featured in Flash Grammar that I wrote about the island fever I returned home with. Don’t tell TSA, but I’d have liked to strangle the pilot when, after a six hour flight away from paradise, he announced, “Alright folks, we’re close to our destination: Portland, Oregon. Clouds and rain. Thirty-eight degrees. Enjoy!”
I am a Fish
“You’re gonna get the fever. They always do,” he’d said.
They come over here with their sunscreen and their tank tops and their romance novels. They rent their snorkels and their boogie boards and their hatchbacks with rainbowed license plates and they swim-swim-swim, surf-surf-surf, drive-drive-drive. They eat the fruit. They drink the sun. They steep in island pace and they burn. They kiss the sugar-cane hills and the rainstorms and the reef waves and the apple-bananas and the color in everything and the idea of this place and then they never leave.
They get on their planes, back to Chicago or Sacramento or Milwaukee or Portland. They go home to their purple mountains or their rolling plains or their miserable sidewalks. They sit in their offices or their classes or their perfect houses with their paperwork or their books or their dust bunnies and they don’t breathe. They drown. They gulp and flop around on the mainland while their souls float on the current they know they never should have left, in the sands they know they can never live without, above the rainforest they know they’ll never leave again.
“You’re gonna get it,” he’d said. “It happened to me.”
Winter pressed on. School and work continued, and somehow I made it through the quarter with little harm, save for knotted shoulders and the looming sense of invisible responsibility (which I have since recovered from over spring break; today’s the last day, in case you’re wondering). Though, sometimes as I’d walk over the bridge in the mid-January storm season, wearing a semi-permeable raincoat (unfortunately), I’d wonder how easy it’d be to accidentally get blown over the hand rail into the Willamette. Storm by storm, my paranoia increased, and bicyclists would yell at me as my path began to drift against the wind towards the middle of the sidewalk. I got a pair of new suede boots for Christmas, and I didn’t want to ruin them with an icy swim in the river, for godsakes. I know it’s silly, but that’s where this came from. No punctuation. Just rhythm (it’s easier if you read it aloud).
i stepped out of the office and into the street where the wind blew and blew like there wasn’t anything the world could possibly make of itself but the cold hard air that persuaded me to walk i looked down at my new boots and thought a good breaking in would do and the night would only be chaos for so long and i wanted to be a part of it so i put one foot in front of the other towards the river and through the sidewalk puddles in the direction of home i had reached hawthorne bridge when the wind was roaring and the synthetic hood of my raincoat pressed against my face like a plastic bag on a light pole i walked listening to the rhythm of my feet swinging my arms to the beat of my pace the loose ends of my hair whipped and flapped as the intensity of everything peaked with diagonal rain and i turned to stand still above the center of the wide willamette the rain stung my face my eyelids clenched tight and without my vision i felt the danger and thrill of the height the slapping ropes on the flag pole beneath the stars and stripes the vibration and rumble as traffic passed cars buses bikes they all watched me standing they all watched the weather beating they all watched me disappear over the ledge the suede of my boots hasn’t been the same since
So, finally, here we sit, all caught up to the present for the most part. I have ten more weeks of grad school, two-and-a-half weeks to finish my portfolio, and four weeks to move (yes, again). Spring is here despite its camouflage of wind and rain. Things are good.
The wind, the rain, the summers bright,
the chill, and trees, make souls alight
in nights so clear, the moon about,
the fires burn, turn insides out.
The beer, the bread, the coffee roasts;
the pubs spill out in streets for toasts.
The Timbers win and fill the seats,
a town of vegans/love of meats.
A land of rivers, long and wide,
seven bridges cross to stride
the stretch, a stream, a city road;
the water bares a lighter load.
Mt. Hood sits watching, distance deep,
her presence constant, morning creeps
over her shoulder, bounds and skips;
the sun, it shines like upturned lips.
And with the dawn, the wheels turn ‘round,
the cars, the bikes, they tread the ground
from corner homes and garden lands
to shining glass and skyscraped hands.
The sidewalks swell with coats and caps,
their owners walk their mental maps
of gridded streets, of stairs, of steps;
they end up in the downtown depths.
And as they teach, or cook, or build,
the skies turn, tumble, torrents wield,
the pavements shift from light to bold,
from dry to drenched, the change is told.
The petals spread and faces turn,
for gaps in showers, clouds to burn,
but puddles bloom with windstorms born;
we wait for spring, our patience worn.
But with the sky tears, walking home,
the gray light guides us all alone,
to low lit secrets, darkened rooms
warmed by wax, the city’s wombs.
We run from weather, deep inside,
the walls surround, our souls are dried,
and here we’re healed, no longer scarred;
our faces face, our eyes, they’re starred,
with alcohol, our hopes and dreams,
all’s closer in this light, it seems.
And so we laugh, and share, and stand
the night away, without demand,
while weather holds her stubborn state,
her teardrops fall a steady rate
and ping and tap the roof about,
the fires burn, turn insides out.
Thanks for reading! You’ll hear from me soon.