Lantern Review: A Journal of Asian American Poetry
Issue 2 | Winter 2011

W. Todd Kaneko

Northwest Poem

You will find no herons perched
in this poem. No salmonberries or pine
cones on sodden paths through cedar.
But here is an old woman who slices
her calendar into weeks lost and weeks
to come—those piles sifting together
while she waits for the leaves to turn
into blankets full of moths and ravens.

Here is a girl who dwells in dollhouses
deep in this poem, porcelain boys hiding
fingers from whales' teeth and butterfly
knives. There are no miles of shoreline
lapping at ends of days like wolves,
no fishladders swarming with sockeye,
only a skeleton where the ocean once was.

Extinction begins as absence, ends gaping
like a surgery, a hole in my chest
marking that mythology we call home.
Mount Rainier does not drift phantomlike
in this poem, but here is that old woman,
crooked under the weight of a century.
She waves off that flock of dark birds
thronging overhead, threatening to pluck
eyes from sockets, tongues from mouths,
until all we can discern is the tide washing
over bare feet, the sound of wings.