Albert G. Keene, carpenter, had planned
to move his young family south that very day,
to sunny California, a more prosperous land,
and a lot warmer. He transferred a vast array
of their household belongings from the dock
to the Alameda, within a circle traced in chalk
by the captain, as the boundary of their estate.
The family pump organ was the only freight
left on the wharf. The cautious captain feared
the approaching fire and tarred timber
of the dock like the long fuse of a bomb for
his ship. A window of mere moments appeared,
so Keene began pulling the organ up the plank—
the captain had signaled. The organ fell. Sank.
Albert G. Keene, carpenter, had planned
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.
If this, our Rome, evades destruction,
Let seven times our seven-hilled
Seattle glory! Though every mountain
Is toppled, every valley filled –
The county’s cussing heights on First Hill
Has heard from Renton Hill a passel
Of claxons sound to Yesler Hill;
And come just now from Denny Hill
I see, though flaming Capitol Hill
Defers its head to Queen Anne Hill
For sun and air, still Beacon Hill
Presents Rainier to all Seattle….
Can such a view survive the day?
What hills will tell no eye can say!
Indeed, a final look, descending
Familiar hills, I thought to climb
Again – to view the proud unbending
Horizon, parsing passing time:
These seven points that crown Seattle,
Observe, like Rome, their city battle
Advancing flames. We make our stand –
Defend with blood this contraband
Of jewels. What time nor man deleted
Becomes empiric testament –
Both hell’s reproof and heaven’s taunt.
For Rome’s but Carthage mistranslated;
And both are tagged and each recast
In calque: “Seattle non delenda est.”
Descending Denny Hill, and turning
Around to look once more, my mind
Was uphill all the way, and burning
To race ahead, and through the blind
Discoveries of chance, my fortune
Created here. So pay attention,
My father said, and dividends
Of water, fire, air and lands –
As far as eye can see – will tender
A promissory cashiered in fame.
The everlasting hills by name
And lore inflame the child with wonder:
As suns will set, so smoke will rise –
Why do they seek no compromise?
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.
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.
… 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.
From the New York Times comes this story about Marsha M. Linehan, a psychologist at the University of Washington here in Seattle. It reads like a real-life inversion of Chekov’s terrifying story, Ward No. 6. It also has implications that readers of a certain novel published by Korrektiv Press might find interesting.
It was 1967, several years after she left the institute as a desperate 20-year-old whom doctors gave little chance of surviving outside the hospital. Survive she did, barely: there was at least one suicide attempt in Tulsa, when she first arrived home; and another episode after she moved to a Y.M.C.A. in Chicago to start over.
She was hospitalized again and emerged confused, lonely and more committed than ever to her Catholic faith. She moved into another Y, found a job as a clerk in an insurance company, started taking night classes at Loyola University — and prayed, often, at a chapel in the Cenacle Retreat Center.
Moved into the Y, found her faith: no Will Barrett she. Read the whole thing.
Finally! The third book from Korrektiv Press is now available. I hit the “publish” button a few days ago, and was told the page would be up later this week. My brother called to tell me he’d manage to find it at Amazon today. You can all also get it at CreateSpace (the printing division of Korrektiv Press).
Here’s the description: Diana tends bar at Queequeg’s Tavern, where she meets Pete, a recent retiree always ready with a joke, and Jeb, a homeless student driven by a poet’s Romantic aspirations. Tangled up in a history of the family blues, she sometimes takes refuge in a church she can’t decide to join for good. Tom, the manager of a video store near the tavern, is settling into a new marriage with Helen, an adult film producer wealthy enough to save Tom’s store from impending doom. But when a figure from his past walks through the door, who will save his marriage? Who will help whom as this nest of birds unravels?
Bird’s Nest in Your Hair: a novel about bartending, old-time religion, and the twilight years of commercial pornography. Plus, poetry!
Before the Altar
Two dozen beers on tap and even more in bottles,
and not just beer, but wine and especially booze,
built up on shelves in something like a ziggurat
for a cult dedicated to the certainty of conviction
granted only to drunks in the blindness of an alcoholic
haze. Rituals have their priests; I see you as a high
priestess of drinking, surrounded by the paraphernalia
of your order: corkscrew, strainer and cocktail shaker,
a dozen kinds of glassware handled with a dexterity
demanding devotion, a cloud rising from cigarettes
burned as incense by attendants at your altar.
How well you handle every office—confessions
whispered without sorrow or regret, the jukebox choir,
and a communion of breadsticks and Beaujolais.