Leaving Coos County

We follow the trail’s bleached
driftwood snags over the dunes
changing shape as we walk them,
around us the cries of wild birds
and the west wind blowing
the flat grass down,
grass of heaven, grass of the coast,
shinbone of a deer half hidden
there, its tendon still attached
to the darkened hoof, offshore
a trash barge towed
toward the dump.

What have I lost
in the sea’s wide pastures
watching for whales headed south?
Good-bye to the salmon
swerving and thrashing
upstream to spawn and die.
Good-bye to the sky turning dark
at 4:30, gray rain falling
for weeks in the sloughs.
Good-bye to the child
jumping over the puddle,
the moon eclipsed in the red
earth-shadow over the Chinese restaurant,
dark pines grown down
close to the road.

The old woman speaks of a shipwreck
unwrapped by the storm, as though
it could no longer sleep there
trapped in its hollow bed.
Good-bye to the hunting knife
shaped like a fish
that cut the frayed tow rope free.

About Joseph Millar:
Joseph Millar’s first collection, Overtime, published by Eastern Washington University Press in 2001, was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. Millar grew up in Pennsylvania and took an MA from Johns Hopkins in 1970. It would be two decades before he returned to poetry. His work has won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and Oregon Literary Arts. In 1997, he gave up his job as telephone installation foreman and moved to western Oregon, where he teaches at Oregon State University and in Pacific University’s low-residency MFA program.