Installment 12 brings together a poem from Fred Wah’s So Far (1991), and a new one, “Columbia Clutch” (2018). Both poems enact impending shifts, abrupt unearthings. Matter breathes, reveals, holds our attention. Yet the latter piece also attends to the double-edged amalgam of awe and harnessing at the heart of our interactions with nature: “Roll on Columbia, roll on/ Your power is turning our darkness to dawn.”
(Photo credit and copyright: Halcyon Ploss)


Spring Geography

Things appear suddenly
not new but as they remain
left over from the winter

for example. dead logs
caught in the brush at all angles
a breathing pushes out of them

a picture in the warmer air
to the surfaces of our skin and eyes

a handfull of dead fingernails
I love you today
like I have never before

fingers and hair. dead logs
heads hands twigs sticks
leaves grass the suddenness

and warm air shimmering
off the hood of a green
47 Dodge pickup

come out of the clouds
the road down
to the lake

[SF :38]


Columbia Clutch

some rust maybe
or an old tire on the shore
but internal combustion
makes no sense the shape

of the current isn’t diesel
though the trains get grade
geology all
comes down to history

the nation an imitation
locomotive rolling stock
‘ol “Roll On Columbia”
time traces depth never

thought of a car as deep.
the canoe, too.


Fred Wah lives in Vancouver and in the West Kootenays. Recent books include Sentenced to Light, his collaborations with visual artists and is a door, a series of poems about hybridity. High Muck a Muck: Playing Chinese, An Interactive Poem, is available online ( Scree: The Collected Earlier Poems, 1962-1991 (Talonbooks, 2015) will be followed by beholden: a poem as long as the Columbia River, a collaboration with Rita Wong, in 2018.