Free Love in the Pacific Northwest

It might be
something like the sun in July,
on shoulders flecked with melted ice-
hot hot heat on baptized skin,
which has nothing at all to do with Christ.

Lake Cushman up north,
on pristine land, where
the Skokomish tribe reside.

It’s where they teach us how to father
something like
the absent yet constant presence,
the generous and ruthless bane of water.

Gospel which has nothing to do with God
but the quiet understanding that
the meek make the heads of the mighty nod.

In generations of wounded knees,
by silenced proxy the way it has to be.

The great ones know that
the pebbles in the stream-
all blue and white and cinder grey,
they hold us in incremental vagueries-
in pain and sweet and let it be.

They know love in pieces
like you or I,
strands of braids more sacred than sky,
like how you learn to love your mother.

It might be
something like a fire stacked tall with
splintered pallet boards,
moldy moss bark that’s not implored
to survive or see another day restored.

Instead
it whines with steam and crackles beneath
the burn in ecstatic release.

It might be dry and forgettable like
needles of the evergreen-
discarded thread,
cardboard, pine cones lit up red.

Scraps of paper up in flames with the night
combustion in the cool of twilight,
chemical reaction as bright as a fight-
until the icy bleak
when it burns your lips closed
and someone asks if you have a light.

It might be a lit match you put in my mouth,
a cigarette on your lips hanging out,
the culling of the proud by way of wild fire,
which I welcome like a witch tied up to a pyre.

Gasoline whiskey touching teeth and
doused by tongues with earth beneath and
bodies made of water
like the river
like the lakes
like the streams
like the sea and

voice in the ear like wind in the trees and
all of it lost and set free and released,
over and over and over again
like learning to lose a lover.

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