April is National Poetry Month: “Point Defiance”

Here’s one with a local touch, written by our own Bill Kupinse, Puget Sound Associate Professor of English and 2008-09 Tacoma Poet Laureate. Submitted by Elizabeth Knight


When I visit her, I find
a sea widow scanning the bay,
hair of braided epiphytes
askew, the blast of wind
across the bay
her keening.

Footpaths cross her heart:
ligatures suture
rags of tissue, strain
against arrhythmia.

In her secret embrasure
anomalous snow convenes,
fistfuls of confetti, forgotten
or illswept.  Here
breathing calms.

A tree stump older
than the steam engine
strikes, for a second, sunlight
in its mossy hollow.  Where rot
succeeds to loam, a splintered branch
of windfall jabs.
Flagless pole, it quivers,
marking a coordinate
which now mostly bores.

ASARCO’s airborne plume
casts a century’s tumorous shadow
—copper cadmium arsenic—
from Ruston’s clavicle to Vashon’s chin.
More than we, the Greeks understood
a poison that might linger,
but here no Machaon will salve
Philoktetes’ festering wound.

Orcas passing through the bay,
half your heroes gone,
circle widely, when the seas
diminish, emulate
the octopus, whose
arms grasp the Narrows bridge:
seek out the secret places.

Leaning back, I descend
a driftwood colossus,
wavetorn taproots flailing —
how long they served, how hard
to relinquish one’s defense.

The tang of ocean drops
frozen from the air.

On sand, I turn and see the giant,
angled toward the sea, now
unremarkable; dozens
so fashioned test water. And I

cannot decide if they are winter sunbathers
or skiffs readying themselves for the sea.

Copyright © 2006 by William Kupinse
From: http://www2.ups.edu/faculty/wkupinse/Poems.htm

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