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Captain Edward Quinn

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Most possessions stacked on the docks
were lost to the flames. A few were able
to be loaded onto ships, whose decks
were heaped high with luxuries like rubble.
As if on cue, the ships weighed anchor
and backed into Elliot Bay, passenger
and crew alike crowding the gunnels
to watch buildings turned into funnels
of smoke. Special mention, nay, rhymes
are required for Captain Edward Quinn
of the schooner Teaser, who rescued ten
crates of books owned by The Seattle Times.
As for those belonging to The Post Intelligencer,
Go ask the flames if you want an answer.

Like Rain and Thunder

Fire-Horizontal

On the west side of Front Street, flames
were temporarily retarded by the walls
of the Safe Deposit Building. On James
Street the fire shrinks and then even stalls,
but the pause is short. A pitiless wind
rose. Dancing orange demons grinned
in expectation before licking the glass
windows and fittings made of brass.
They soon leapt over to Gordon Hardware,
where the roar of their maws was punctuated
by tons of cartridges exploding, unabated.
Civilians dove for cover, said a prayer
and more, then waited in awe and wonder
as all the ammunition boomed like thunder.

Adam Connel

A couple of alert young guardsmen apprehended a man clothed in four new suits.

A man named Adam Connel, lurking
Behind the shell of what had been
The tailor’s — where his wife was working
When fire’d come like Adam’s sin —
Peeked in. Against the soot, red dapples
Attracted his attention: apples
His wife had left behind, unburned
Somehow and sweet, so Adam turned
And, seeing no one looking, hastened
Within to have a taste. The juice
Was dribbling down his chin like sluice
When Adam saw the suits. They glistened
Like royal robes of silken thread.
So Adam put them on and fled.

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Sebastian Ness

One man found a large lump of melted gold and the haste with which he shoved it under his coat and made off was astonishing. He was chased several blocks by the police, but was not captured.

Sebastian Ness was kicking through the
Still cooling ash at First and Main
When something solid led him to the
Enticing thought that not in vain
A gloved hand might venture, bending,
To touch some mystery, depending
On fortune’s smile to turn his fate
From lead to gold, to love from hate.
The lump he lifted flamed like foil
Beneath the blue, bird-speckled skies,
And Ness took flight with silent cries
That oozed out from his soul like oil.
His feet were fleet and did not pause
To ponder morals, rights, or laws.

Furth Steps Forth

… when firemen pried up planks from the sidewalk near the north end of the block, intense heat drove them back. The basements of buildings were roaring furnaces …

Jacob Furth, dressed in tails and top hat,
was hastening across Western Avenue
when he saw smoke rising around a slat
near the curb. He hailed a fire crew
busy hauling hoses toward the dock
at Pier Two, then knelt on the boardwalk
to get a closer look. Felt the plank
for heat. As the firemen began to yank
loose the boards, Furth stepped back
to survey the entire block. Up the street
there was a shout, then a blast of heat
as the firemen fell back, their faces black
with smoke. Furth stepped forth … nervous …
the basement itself was a roaring furnace.

The Denny Party Clears a Hill

Seattle was founded by members of the Denny party, most of whom arrived at Alki Beach on November 13, 1851 and then, in April 1852, relocated to the eastern shore of Elliott Bay. With the filing of the first plats on May 23,1853, the “Town of Seattle” became official. – “Seattle: A Brief History of Its Founding”

That settled it. Our hunger beckoned
We cross the bay once winter ate
Our stores; here, clearing trees, we reckoned
To tip the balance back to what
We had in Illinois, what took us
To Alki Point, and there forsook us.
So timber shivers, cedar shakes
And lumber quivers, falls and stakes
Our claim to land. We mean to bear it
When snow and rising winds combine
To needle sighs from match-stick pine.
For future’s fire (Can man endure it?)
Ignites the morning, tree by tree,
And lights our dawning industry…

The Last Coffee

It was our final midday coffee
Before the world had singed our ears –
Then, cupboard doors flew off, and whisky
And tumbler served to douse my fears
With flame – soon shooting horizontal
Across the sky while sacramental
Destruction drapes an ashen pall.
You looked at me – and saw it all
But kept your wits and rose to gather
The full importance: “Smoke, not steam
Is now your business, Rob. The dream
Of Pontius Pilate’s wife would rather
That Rome not face that man, the Jew.
And what’ll Seattle do to you?”

Melissa’s Dream

A naked Mr. Back was courting
My hand behind your back. He slipped
His hand beneath my skirt, and hurting
He pulled it quickly back. He gripped
And held it out – all burnt and throbbing,
A hive of bees. He kept on sobbing,
“My hand! My hand!” The honey dripped
Like molten blood from icy crypt,
Igniting parquet floor and ceiling.
Our bedroom chamber burned to hell –
I called, you came, and silence fell
(With Mr. Back on prie-dieu kneeling).
You pulled at hose along my thigh –
But could you reach a fire that high?

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Moran Composes His Will

I flipped a switch and ghosts were banished
By cold electric light. The bed
And room were bare. Melissa vanished
And silence hummed with words unsaid.
Rosario and I said farewell
(I left her by the servant’s stairwell)
And Argus-eyed, her windows blazed
With conquered fire – I’m still amazed
That tame destruction had established
A city: Sown as dragon’s teeth
A million volts had sprung a myth
And shone, a jewel that’s never polished –
Secure the flame and time forgets
The gross reward that nets regrets.

The Prophet Speaks

And genuflecting to the shoreline,
Unsheathing meaning in Lushootseed,
He chiefly paints on water: more than
An ancient oak, his lush shoots seed
The acorn’s fire; his tongue is bladed,
An oar that cuts the sound, though faded:
I give these words to future chiefs,
Who know the dead will speak beliefs
Beyond these flames: once more with water
And mud, with feathered fin again,
With web and spider’s tale, let pen
Produce the vessels, let the potter
Rebuild Seattle’s house of words;
Let beards entangle clever birds.