Marmot Pass, 6,000 feet,
Olympic Mountains, Washington
. . . as though I’ve unshouldered the bulk
of my body and heaved it aside with my pack,
he thinks, sitting by a bark-shaved
post that holds the carved altitude.
Thigh and calf muscles loosen
the way pearls of jasmine tea
unwind in a pot.
He could lean into a somersault eastward
or west, following water, and he wonders
if this ridge divides the Quilcene
from the Dungeness as each decision he makes
parts the flow of his life.
On a slope of scree up the Quilcene drainage
he had grouped his footsteps into hundreds, propped
his palms on his knees for ten-breath intervals.
Just audible, from the west and far below,
a seashell roar finds him:
Eyes closed, he whispers Dungeness,
pictures each syllable
slipping down the river like a fish.
He lies back in a drowse.
As he drifts beyond the pass
his hands and feet stroke water as fins—
he bursts from an eddy of silt
into bubbles rushing.
John Willson is a recipient of the Pushcart Prize and awards from the Academy of American Poets, the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference, and the Artist Trust of Washington. His poems have appeared in anthologies such as Spreading the Word: Editors on Poetry and Under Our Skin: Literature of Breast Cancer; and in journals including Bellevue Literary Review, California Quarterly, Cold Mountain Review, Crab Orchard Review, Hawaii Pacific Review, Journal of the American Medical Association, Kyoto Journal, Louisiana Review, Many Mountains Moving, Northwest Review, Notre Dame Review, Poet Lore, Roanoke Review, and Sycamore Review. A two-time finalist in the National Poetry Series, John lives on Bainbridge Island, Washington.