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Lex Runciman

193rd Day, 172 Days to Come

--i. m. Erik Muller


Always in your own hand,

your letters on recycled paper,


an ancient diary page this time, a Monday

from July, 1971, on which you write that

though progressively diseased, I remain, for now,

fairly much at ease, before


more fatigue, more pain, yet, as you say,

on extended wing.


And only now I see

the slight tremor in the capital G

of Glide Path, naming the journal you're keeping,


and in the tailing f of fatigue.



Letter to Erik from Seal Rock



Dear Erik,


How to say what cannot be said? But I will tell you

this morning’s tide retreated about as far as it ever does,

sand and rocky black-gray lava revealed just as it looked 

once those lava red lines stopped steaming, bubbling,

flattening out, mounding and hissing as they covered

whatever they encountered – those drift-wood bits

that come up blackened charcoal hardened to stone,

the grain of growth patterns carbon-reflective even now.

Your death has left sorrow, and also a benign space,

wildly inaccurate to call empty… Sure, you say,

I’m happy to be here – sunny weather, sea lions

hauled out and collapsed. Let’s sit and not talk,

just watch the waves ashore. Later, you say, huh,

as though you’ve come to some conclusion. What?

I ask. Just this, you say, gesturing – this weather,

this hour, tide and beach… all of it. You’re smiling,

and you’ve closed your eyes.



Night Sky Timeless

from a painting by Joan Eardley



Catterline, Scotland, in winter

tilts more than a little off kilter, stone houses,


all one row attached – sturdy, gray-dark,

snaky, and stoic – about to tumble downhill,

though they haven't yet and they won't.


In warm beds, cold rooms, sensible people

huddle, mutter, snore – all but the painter

who cannot find sleep.


Whole-milk moon, slate frozen sky. Yellow-grass

jumble fizzed with rime. And snow

burning on its luminous own.


A sere and comic beauty hushed.

It will take your breath.


Sunrise, October 6th



and a hundred uncountable

flashing gulls circle and flare over

            small, slow-rolling brilliant surf,


gray wings, white breasts this first hour whitened

            as though by some inexhaustible source,

and they do not land on the sea, or


            if they do alight they as soon

lift off again, wheeling, circling, noisily

            keeping on, gliding low or


on easy almost lazy wingbeats,

            lifting as though this morning’s

late-in-the-year sun wakes in them


            an inner verve, undeniable,

theirs alone, sea’s air a wish

            only raucous flight can answer.


Lex Runciman's poem "Green" leads off the Willamette Valley section of Cascadia Field Guide. His most recent book is Unlooked For (Salmon Poetry, Ireland, 2022). New work has recently been featured on The Friday Poem website. He lives in that Portland close to the Pacific.


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