Poem by Angel Uriel Perales   •   Photo by Donnali Peters

These things I mutter at my own expense.
The roads and viaducts are as muddy as yesteryear,
I’ve watched the blue ice glaciers
retracting and disappear, they gouge behind
solid scratches upon the mountainside,
paint deep strokes on the burrowed rocks,
the ink seeps blindly from my fountain pen,
I write all these things at my own expense.
Wild hogs root nightly in their grubby hovels,
in their dens the vixens nip at their own twitching tails,
sockeye salmon spawn upriver and congregate
where lupine preachers howl
the praises of nature’s magistrates,
an attractive red color flashes through the streams,
a beaconed lightning rod to the eagle’s beak,
white plumed and taloned and walking on rushing water
plucking the churning chum from the gurgling chatter.
I find a gum wrapper stuck to a fallen conifer,
before a sludge marsh of dying lodgepole pine,
the black-eyed susans turn away from me,
they weep at the daily disturbance to their serenity.
My hiking boots are soon covered with sap and pollen
and I answer my cell phone three times in succession –
I have to laugh when my signal is stolen by another party
trudging up the trail, another urbanite trying to pay his bail.
I freeze in the middle of the headwaters of Mendenhall creek,
a swarthy brown bear beckoning me, he rises on hind legs
sniffing the air, slowly lowers his muzzled growl locked in a stare.
all my training abandons my legs, very difficult to concentrate,
he casually turns away with unfeigned distaste, swatting at
darting fish in his path of disdain.  I am racked by coughs, nervous,
collapse, reach for the smell that most likely saved my hide,
an addictive inconspicuous pack of aptly named Lucky Strikes.
These things I stutter at my own expense,
the floating river icebergs look blue and melt like antifreeze –
I’ve videotaped the fishermen squeezing torrents of sperm
and eggs over hatchery tin buckets, throw away fish to flip
and flop to ignoble recompense.  One hundred and three miles
of highway have been carved out of Juneau Island, all roads
lead to dead ends and tangleweed deadfalls.  The local kids park
and pet heavy at the turnarounds, discard their bottles of beer
into the waiting and watching woods.  The trees know that soon
some will be reclaimed, they have witnessed black spruce grow
in clumps around laid-out graves; and so the conflict continues
to smolder and vex.  I write all this at my own expense.

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