What is Seattle creating south of its most urban lakeshore?
South of Lake Union with Roethke
The sky is filling up with floors.
Where weren’t there trees?
Soil is dirt when it’s trucked off.
No work for a wren in this thicket.
All come slowly here through rushes.
Moses in a crosswalk doesn’t stand a chance.
Money is most dreadful weather.
No iris where there should be.
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Regarding the title of my poem: Theodore Roethke won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1954 while living in Seattle and teaching at the University of Washington. It was said, and is likely true, that he celebrated by taking his class to the Blue Moon Tavern.
Roethke wrote very moving poetry, eccentric and electric in its rhyme and meter, and at once personal, profound and passionately immediate. His poems exhibit a deep awareness of and care for the nonhuman world, as well as the great pleasure he took in the sounds of language.
Roethke was known for sharp opinions about poetry and for not being shy to express them. I don’t know what he would have thought of my poem — I certainly hope he doesn’t mind his name being attached. His legacy, besides the wonderful poetry, stems from his capacity to give free rein to a vibrant imagination and his willingness to allow the line of poetry to live out on its own, not forcing it to wear the dull coat of conversational rhetoric.
I trust the phrase South of Lake Union in the title doesn’t require any gloss. But I will say it seems like that area of Seattle has become an all-but-perpetual monument to the act of human endeavor without any particularly healthy objective in mind.