by Laura Christina Dunn
A person’s sudden intake of air is
like the sound of cars passing through water
along a gray roadway.
I have shorn my hair off with water.
As the sun sets a thousand miles away,
strands cling tight to the scalp.
I dab my body dry from the shower.
White walls glare light
upon the pocked mirror. The radio confesses
what is lost somewhere
west, home where four people died, and the water
gripped the town around the neck.
The flood again.
Why do they speak of home as if it is not
here? This river is shut up in ice.
Out front, the traffic continues.
But the radio admits that along the Pacific
the valleys are deepening into lakes.
The river will reach the Cascades at daybreak
fattening itself on the tar of the highways,
the angle of rooftops— there is no need for the cars anymore
the traffic has reached its end.
And I remember the spring of 1990—
I was a child watching the city become
an island. Out behind the golf course
where the highway leads away from
town, trees were waste deep in the river.
Crawl to the deepest edge of a city—
the river waits to make its name your home.
To know the restlessness now of an islander,
the eyes wondering where the highway leads
only after all exits are blocked. In lost basements
and drowned tree roots, I found
the urge to pass through water—
Or the time spent waiting tables in Portland’s winter,
the continuous twilight. I stood to take an order
as the water rushed in through the emergency exits.
The street flowed with water instead
of cars. The street I named the river Hoyt
as the chef dug in the gutter for trash and fall’s last leaves.
And I held a broom to sway the water,
to convince it that it does not belong
in the lamplight. Inside the restaurant,
the people continued to eat.
The hiss of water passed
beneath their tables.
On the hills here now, the yellow grass
pokes through the snow as it melts. A scarred hill face
remembers itself before the weather.
A thousand miles from the flood,
it’s two in the morning.
Lock the door.
On the tile of the bathroom
I listen to the cars pass,
too quiet to be this night.