Kurt Olson

grew up in Clarkston, but the river
And falls, the whispers and glances, the side-
Walk life, the upright’s strings aquiver
Beneath his touch, made him decide
To chance it north, to break his language
In two or three, to speak the garbage
Out, out, to dumpster dive
His soul and come back out alive
With music that was lost on fathers
(Ungiven, unforgiven, lost)
And words beneath forgotten crust
Cast out in alleys where no one bothers
With berries from Kurt’s favorite pie,
The filling filling up his sky.

Thom Caraway

The Spokane flows the right direction
Away from North Dakota, with
The Empire Builder gaining traction
Towards the coast and mountain’s wrath.
Inside the train, a car away from
Dakota’s oceanic daydream,
Thom dines on salmon steak filet,
Adjusts his laurel-wreathed beret,
And watches good ideas grow better
As small town architects increase
Their sense of timing, form, and grace,
As morning comes and thoughts grow lighter.
Then Thom wakes in his Spokane bed
Where train dreams end with daily bread.

Zan Agzigian

A flame from Sandra, both eyes open—
A tape recorded organ drones,
A spirit forces them for pardon
So full of tears and telephones.
In insulated Spokane houses
October Spokane windy punches
Handled our hearts with sleight of hand
In absolute pastures of chambered grassland.
Zan caught the truth and sent it flying
Inside our music, note for note
To help survive the spring time bite
Of being born while busy dying.
No fooling Zan’s become this place,
There is a God, she found the trace.

Dennis Held

He polkas two step flops out of the
Serene dead ends of Vinegar Flats
Where time and time’s children love the
Unhurried pace. The sidestreet cats
Meander round the poet’s broken
Down heart, beat up car, aching
Iambic lines laid out like seeds
In rows where syllables and weeds
Comingle with pugnacious music
In step with river rush and trains
That sing to Dennis soft refrains
And bathe the tragic in the comic
Insistence on the rocky ground
Divine in dialects of sound.

Mark Anderson

My cousin Mark, his mouth a jumble
Of broken word and spoken mic
Syllabic gleams between his humble
Chaotic teeth, his Eastern psych
Degree a background velvet curtain
In mind unwound, laid out, uncertain
Of what the world is asking of
The god no one believes in, love,
And love’s irascible homely cousin,
Lust, whose arrows break like lead
In pencils pressed against one’s head
But fly like roses by the dozen
Into the hearts of Spokane’s youth
To bloom in light and bomb in truth.

Sherman Alexie

The Spokane falls where ghosts of salmon
Foreseen by Sherman fill their gills
With Catholic gilt and white man’s mammon
To pay for rehabs and oil pills,
Basalt and concrete worn by water
Flowing genocidal slaughter,
Coyote’s unrequited love,
Alexie’s push that comes to shove.
The towns of Wellpinit and Reardan,
The left and right arms that draw
You to Spokane’s hungry maw,
Release you now; but do not harden
The paths of your own tears that trail
Down windows in Seattle’s vale.

Jess Walter

Your name recalls another Jesse—
The outlaw James whose name came down
The falls and tumbled graves of history,
Like Springdale dogs that will not drown.
Your books pile up, basalt-like, columns
Beneath them, reporter’s stratagems
From ink to paper, one eye dark
But one enough to light a spark.
Evince the witness of the breaking
Unbroken ground of needless naught
Within your grasp but dearly bought
Self-loathing but not self-forsaking.
Your soul, dear Jess, is nonetheless
The ruins that I’d have God bless.

Rachel Toor

The watch that rests near angels dancing
Upon–around–your nimble wrist
Tells more than time at every glancing
When even demons giving blist-
Ers notice your released endorphins
Undoing pain, unnailing coffins,
And resurrecting running shoes
For one more run in search of clues
To what makes Academe’s demented
Professors tic, what makes us fall
Into profound abstracted fol-
Ly: tenure tracks down halls cemented
With chalky dreams and clocks that click
Their heels to run on time, and quick.

Tom I. Davis

’34 to ’13

Tom Davis, inauspicious, rivered
In Peaceful Valley, didn’t miss
The point, the little jests delivered
From points upstream, the hugs and piss
Of landscapes peopled through all seasons
With love and love’s subtle treasons,
The unforlorn beatitudes
Of losses, pains, of thoughts and moods,
The here and now’s eclipse diminished
By wives and children, poems, lies,
And truth writ small within the lines
Until that gnarled finger finished
His last touch, his last salute
To life, though silent, never mute.

Christopher Howell

He rose up from a farm near Portland
And ranged a Lutheran college north;
Seattle beaconed down, and heartland
Unmindfulness propelled him forth
Beyond a war of naval typists,
Their visions rival solipsists
Undoing; lately in the man
Arriving here to make Spokane
The house of his body, snowing lightly,
A lucky crime, the crime of luck,
But mercy holds his hand; he’s stuck
For now but angels come fortnightly
To sing him over heaven’s bridge
From jagged ridge to jagged ridge.

Jonathan Johnson

J. Johnson came to Spokane’s urban
Environs tracking mud across
The academic carpet, carbon
Dating mastodons of loss
Put up for sale in Fairbanks’ paper,
Domestic, edgeless, Great Lakes clipper
Delivering Jonathan to our town,
A mountain man in poet’s gown,
Intense, awake, a patient teacher,
A husband, father, one who knows
The shape of silence and what grows
From silence into human nature.
Dear J, it’s nice to see you here–
When will we drink that promised beer?

Spokane Stanzas


Spokane’s the place where water falling
From Idaho runs through with thoughts
Unconsciously unwinding, reeling
The poets in from inland squats
To take their places at the river’s
Bedraggled edges. Poets’ livers
Can’t filter all that they abuse
Themselves with for the lovely ruse
That lines of words can make unhappy
Inhabitants of Coeur d’Alene
Cease for a moment feeling pain
Or leastwise help them feel less crappy
When turning towards the Cascade heights
With thoughts of oceanic nights.