“3 Poems” by Daniel Person

Station of the Cross

We just missed each other

At the service station

The one with the crucifix

Glowing neon

Above the soda pistons


Such a polystyrene display

Of commodity salvation

It was easy for you

To stay away

Until the inevitable hunger

For grape soda

And Wonder Bread

Drew across your ribs


But by then

I’d come to see it your way

The automatic doors made it so easy

To slip out without buying anything

And if I was stealing

The surveillance didn’t care

They keep all the good stuff

Behind the counter

Wrapped in cellophane


How did we miss each other, coming and going?

The trumpets herald from heaven

Any time anyone trips the lasers

to alert the clerk of their presence

Like Abraham telling God “Here I am.”

Do not give me a stupid-simple parable

About our closing our ears to our brothers!




When it comes time for you to check out

Leave the fluorescence and find me.

I am here.

We will kiss on the lips

The way the apostles did

We will be like we were when we were kids


Playing stud poker

With Little Debbie donuts


What a sticky mess we’ll make

As we wager

On what hot dog condiments they’ll leave out

In eternity

On what would happen

If we shot a Madonna

With a pump action full of Corn Nuts


Yes we’ll be

That small and human

Drink light beer by the rack

Averting our Bud Ice eyes

From anything that looks like substantiation

As if the empty calories will save us

From the decarbonated ennui

Of starvation


Nature is a highway mitigation project

Hereby for the preservation of wet


And the continuance of regional mobility

We consecrate this

Beneath the dynamic joints

And reinforced joists

Over which traffic flows like our iron blood


Preserved by the benevolence

Of transportation management

Who foresaw

Spawning Chinook

Need not document

adverse effects


That preferred alternatives exist

In the environmental impact appendices

And statements of strategies

Wherein mandated metrics

Measuring motorist speed and distance



Are achieved in coexistence

With nesting scarlet tanagers

And 32-cent mallards

By a weighing and dividing

And accounting


So precise we could be talking

About Caesar in the granary

The Republic is hungry

But so does the Empire

Have its needs


Tributes are necessary

And so we accept into freshwater tributaries

The petrochemical seep

That has been known to cause

Egg-heavy salmon to fall

Into a brain-sick Dervish swirl

Not unlike a compass near iron

A fundamental phenomena

Negated by acute local circumstance


And we here now rest assured

that these Imperfections and misdirections

Are subject to stringent and scientific mitigation

Not so different from the lead blanket

Lain over a fetus

When its mother undergoes radiation

To figure out what’s wrong


Gravitational Geography

The rationality

Of the river

Is pure like

And perfect like

The Dearborn


Backpacker’s summer


Snow’s down to the dregs


We make camp at

First thunder


The rational river

At every inch


The plumb line

Of that inch

Of the world

It falls true like

Lead on string



When our

Nylon sacks

Are retired on

Bear-bag twine

We consider why

Rivers fall so crooked

–Winter is so abstract–

Why rivers fall so crooked

After so many billions

Of true lines


Napping in

Two p.m. light


Projecting a thousand red rivers

Montana’s thousand blue rivers

From our eyelids to our eyes

We can’t sleep till we figure

This gravitational geology


It’s like

You say

It’s like

If we could make a topography

Of relativity

It’s like

You say

But it’s already silt:

Running though our knuckles

Leaving nothing in our palms


But sweat and the sweet

Crooked trout ferment

Of detritus left rotting

By the Dearborn’s receding

At season’s end

Daniel Person is a journalist living in Tacoma. He has written for publications across the West, including Outside Online, Cowboys & Indians, and High Country News. His story about Blackfeet tribal members using traditional practices to address PTSD was recently featured in the anthology Montana: Warts and All. He is also the co-author of the forthcoming 26 Songs in 30 Days: Woody Guthrie’s Columbia River Songs and the Planned Promised Land in the Pacific Northwest. Lastly, though his employer wouldn’t use that term, he is news editor at Seattle Weekly.