Ode: Guemes


The island ferry rumbles underfoot,
It’s turbine heart enough to sound a depth
I’ve never known. And so our work’s cut out
For us this long weekend – to catch our breath.
Though a beer-can cliché, Mt. Baker thrills –
But weather draws its curtain, grey and low
And grants no hearing there. Woodpecker trills
And taps at pulpy words. (He eats mine raw.)
Each window renders picture-perfect scenes –
And Puget chews them all. So breath escapes
My reach – as time and talk give rise to means
By which friendships test the Guemes soundscapes:
Consistent pebbles’ chatter constant sound –
The hushing wish that fills the firs with wind.

Consistent pebbles’ chatter constant sound
And cull our ears to hold the shape and hear
The hushing wish that fills the firs with wind.

Inspect the stones, each polished smooth and round
And bitten off by glacier’s lightning where
Consistent pebbles chatter, constant, sound.

The roll and dive of seal and whale are drowned
In silent mountain distances that near
The hushing wish which fills the firs with wind.

The parti-colored rapture rests on ground
That shifts and spills like cargo. Tankers steer
Consistent. Pebbles chatter. Constant sound

Admits such wakes, they shudder shore and send
Their fill of shells like gems – each clam is sure
To hush the wish that fills the firs with wind.

And you, who made this island stay so grand,
You know what stays with me, so loud and clear?
Consistent pebbles’ chatter, constant sound,
The hushing wish that fills the firs with wind.

Again the ferry churns across the waves –
Departure hides in diffidence. But blues
And greys of morning burn toward noon. That leaves
Us hoping for return. And gulls abuse
The air with cries of infamy: “You can’t
Abandon us!” To miss the children’s play
That washes up the shingled beach? That slant
Of land now slopes away. We cannot stay.
The gulls have found, between the air and sea,
Their clamoring voice. They slap at clams (Is there
A Latin root there: clam, or “secretly”?)
On stones. So secrets break their silence here:
Consistent pebbles’ chatter constant sound –
The hushing wish that fills the firs with wind.


  1. What to do now? Start planning for Gerasene ’15 … Wisconsin or bust!

  2. The clam (secret) and clamor (shout) is an interesting dichotomy. Nice work!

  3. Very, very nice. Thanks.

  4. Matthew Lickona says


  5. Jonathan Potter says

    Nice mashup of forms for the island experience–sound and sense and substance and form following function.

  6. I was so glad to have been given this one…

    Thanks so much, all, for a fine time!

    A very fine time.


    • Matthew Lickona says

      “The next time you’re stuck reading a libretto on an island in the Pacific Northwest, crack open an ice-cold Guemes lager! Guemes Beer: It’s a Very Fine Time!”

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