“Amanda, who is blind, tore her feet horribly over these rugged rocks, leaving blood sufficient to track her by.”
From the journal of Royal A. Bensell, 1864, near Yachats, Oregon
It was their way to embrace these circles of seasons,
harvest an abundance of bulbs, roots, berries;
pry mussels from rocks in the low and salty estuaries.
Until the hand of force rained down
and they became refugees in their own homeland.
It was their way to lay the dead
in canoes hung from branches, always
facing west. The boat would gently sway
in the breeze as souls sailed into the next world.
Which of us wouldn’t want to enter eternity like that?
It was their way to leave gifts for the dead, tools
for that long journey: basket, knife, blanket.
Until those gifts were stolen for souvenirs.
It was their way to trust in the shaman.
Until the diseases came to defeat them
and there were no more living to tend to the dying.
Today, we lace our boots and ready our packs
to step into the ripe and sudden smells of the forest
on the flanks of Cape Perpetua.
The same cliffs, chasms, streams, rocks, hills.
Forever, the same churning waves in the distance.
The path before us curves like the parenthesis of history.
We can’t see its end as we cross over a bridge,
traverse switchbacks to follow the twisting trail,
pause at the knoll overlooking the expansive sea.
Hawks circle the slope in a cloudless blue sky.
Trees etch the sky, writing a language dappled with light,
rooted in darkness, serene and chaotic.
CONNIE SOPER has come back to poetry after a long hiatus. Her poems have previously appeared in Calyx, Willamette Week, San Francisco Guardian, and elsewhere. She is also the author of a non-fiction book, Exploring the Oregon Coast Trail. She divides her time between Portland and Manzanita, Oregon. She loves and is continually inspired by the time she spends at the Oregon Coast.