Arts + Scene » Poetry

Living By Our Lights – 1966



*You did what you knew how to do,
and when you knew better, you did better.*
– Maya Angelou

Timber was a despot
king when I was buying penny Tootsie Rolls at Bonomini’s, a freckled kid with one eye on the newest Classic Comics. Jean Val Jean could walk right through that door and I would die trying to give him every loaf of Wonder Bread.

Leland worked the mill and made
just enough to raise seven sons to pull green chain. His one girl learned to cook and sew and stretch a dime paper-thin: pinto beans ladled onto buttered white bread laid in the scarred bottom of a melamine bowl.

One night we heard that Timmy P.
was headed for St. Joe’s, three fingers lost to a crosscut saw. He drove his primer-gray ’56 Plymouth around afterward, left arm on the open window, hand just thumb and pinky and fat bandages in between. And he went back

because trees were everywhere, just
like schools of Chinook, and everywhere names that big trees made big: Dolbeer, Carson, Vance. The trees that grew right down to the edge of the bay when Humboldt was the name of a man and not the silver water.

We rode the train to Pacific Lumber,
a third grade field trip. Huge, loud, hard hats and the useful tang of redwood everywhere. Behind a thick glass window, pressure jets of water stripped long hanks of fibrous bark off the pink wood, pink like salmon. It was damn near patriotic.



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