KP on Vashon: Writers from the Isle, December 2001

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On the Boat
Excerpt from Waking on Water: poems from the harbor
Published by One Woman's Press, 1992
by Julie Selman

rising into awareness
pushing thick liquid sleep from
where it eddies in folds of blanket
wet tangle
of seaweed covered bank
green glowing pearls bundled
an overflowing jewel box
the tide is out

low in the harbor
wind flying somewhere higher
a raven punctuates the sky
calm carries us
me    the cat    the boat
while I make coffee
and wait for the water
to rise

we live in cycles
I am reminded twice a day
sturdy white haired men
tromp back and forth
on the dock
checking fuel lines and gear
I feel at home and out of place
drinking coffee
in my cabin
this is an industrial

how did I get here?
24 years of travel
a knowledge of roads
East coast suburbia
Turnpike trivia
laugh but remember
exit 8A
I left a yellow kitchen
in New Jersey
but here I can breathe

and bear the traffic on
Egan Drive
one difficult left turn
when I leave the harbor
in the morning

some days I don't
set foot on land
prefer the up and down
of boat gently bobbing on
undulating mirrored surface
don't make the casual climb up
metal grated ramp becoming
steep then sliding flat as
the boat world rises

entire weekends meeting only
people who relate to vessels
Lou on the Gavia    the red haired lady
who fishes shrimp on the Wesley
try to anticipate the jump of a
Dolly Varden as I walk on wood
noting schools of small salmon
humpies and dogs  silver and speckled
my days drift into nights
pump the bilge  feed the cat
talk with friends in
the crowded kitchen

I wake on water
always feeling the gentle rising
tide returning
I am home I tell myself
this I know
my whole world held lightly
in the palm
of the harbor


The Mysteries of Flight
by Julie Selman

That planes come down is
not as surprising as the fact that
They go up at all    132 people
suddenly missing    when we know there
were bodies    seems absurd    a DC-10
is a big thing    and yet when it hit
dirt in Iowa    I didn't feel it
here in New Jersey    I caught
radio waves as I carefully navigated
my car across route 1    stopping for
the red light    wondering about the baby
and the feeling of flight as it was thrown
forward in the wreckage

Contemplating hell    I think
Grandma Beth must know more about it
here on earth    she will never fly
United again    she had waited so long
to earn her title    and now she
can fly out in rage, lose her teas into
her hands    send telegrams to South Carolina
make arrangements for three funerals
flight ended in ground

Spring will come    and the spring after that
daffodils will lose their pollen to the air
and I will travel to the west, passing through Iowa.
Not noticing the DC-10 glinting in the sun
miles high overhead    I won't hear
the urgent warning to fasten seat belts
in my car I will scan the dial listening
for McCoy Tyner    catching all the good things
that ride on air    I'll stop for coffee at dusk
and ask the gray haired lady at the booth
no personal questions    the lines on her face
cut deep and she looks too sad.


Julie Selman Shannon has been writing poetry and keeping journals for almost as long as she can remember. She has studied English and writing at Rutgers University and at the University of Oregon, holds an Ed.M in secondary English education, and has taught English and Art in Alaska. She teaches at the Blue Heron Art Gallery on Vashon Island, and her classes include Bookmaking & Self-Publishing as well as Poetry Journalling. Her self-published book, "Waking on Water: Poems from the Harbor", is a collection of 10 poems that came from her own Poetry Journal process. Copies of this book are available from Julie's One Woman's Press for $6.50 including postage. Email her with your orders:

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