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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?

photosource

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 Rises

June 7, 1889

The smoking signal of disaster
Is blanketing the sky and makes
Its message known: the cracked pilaster
And crumbled tombs on Blake’s
Discovered island rumble thunder –
The earth, a curtain, slips from under
The waking ghost of Chief Sealth
Upon the dawn, his day of death,
The seventh day of June, some twenty
And three Duwamish seasons dead,
Has raised a hand above a head
Still crowned in clouds of silver, flinty
As words that sparks his tongue to speak
And cut through smoke on mountain’s peak.

Read All About It

The Post-Intelligencer outlines –
(The second column from the left,
Above the fold) in piled headlines
With fonts of varied size and heft
That spread the burning news post-haste and
Describe how all the Southern lowland
Was sunk beneath a fiery sea –
The awful news: that charred debris
Is all Seattle has to sell now.
The paper tallies up the cost
The acres, blocks, and millions lost –
Both brick and wood made food for hell now –
But ends with this more hopeful claim:
A phoenix rising from the flame.

The Legend of John Back’s Death

As legend has it, whether true or
Perhaps a tallish tale, John Back
Was dry and needed more hard liquor
Than what he’d hid beneath his sack.
He barged aboard a tied-up steamer
And found a case of gin, some creamer,
A loaf of cheese — that was enough:
John grabbed the gin and other stuff —
As much as his poor arms could mule —
And would have left the ship, but that
Was not his fate; instead a rat
Appeared and challenged him to duel,
Produced a tiny pistol, fired:
John Back lay dead, wiped out, expired.

Moran Calls For Help

Noria

The fire had crossed Second Avenue, and was heading up to Third. Smoke could be seen in Tacoma, and the roar of the fire heard for miles. Help had been called in from Tacoma, Portland, and even Victoria, B.C. …

Realizing their geoduck was cooked,
Moran raced into the offices of the Sunset
Telephone-Telegraph Co. and unhooked
the contraption himself. “Get
me Tacoma!” And Portland and Victoria,
B.C., and then, remembering a noria
he’d seen on the faraway Kickapoo
River, put out a call for someone he knew,
had heard legend of, anyway—a Wisconsin
firefighter by name of Paddy or Mick
O’Somethingerother, who with a single lick
and a little spit could put out the fire in
Hades itself. “The name? People are dyin’
here! Wait; I got it … Get me O’Brien!”