West Coast Elegies

/ Ploy Techawatanasuk (Writer), Amy Stukenholtz (Illustrator)

Poetry1 min reading time

A girl walks over a crosswalk towards the viewer. There are mountains and the sun behind her.

Have you ever been to where
the trees went to sleep on St Helen’s?
I heard the birds don’t know which way is which
when the pinetops are laid down like that.

There is so much sun here, you can store it
in an urn, the way my grandmother stored
rainwater, and bathe in it,
that warm prickly feeling that coats you
like silk. The people here wear shoes meant
for walking, and the paved roads
haven’t lost their ups and downs, not like
the stuff of my city: flattened under concrete dreams,
the heaviness of prayer and coin.

When you drive up, the hours
disappear into the fog and
all the saints have cities in a tongue I
don’t speak, it tastes like sweat and cold nights,
runaway sleep between my teeth. And there’s smoke there too,
in the land between here and red.

The woods are dead in the summer,
or live to die in the fall, so it’s a seasonal thing to fall,
so it’s a seasonal thing to burn,
so if the smoke alarm above my
borrowed bed rings, it’s a seasonal thing for me
to burn, until I am
sand, and then glass, and then something after that,
something to be swept into the dustbin ocean,
where salt is not native on my skin,
and my ashes won’t make it home
to my grandmother’s rainwater urn where
I was raised.