FEATURED WORDS: KUS-KUS-SUM

Words by Lorin Medley
Photo by Sara Kempner

1. Field’s sawmill

A burial site with ghost bodies
                    on platforms in trees
retaining walls at the river’s edge

log booms float in the memory water
past Hollyhock Marsh   upriver to the mill

in the lumber yard   forklifts   front end loaders
Ross and Marty on the green chain      yellow cedar 4 x 4s

Love it or hate it   concedes the waitress at The Old House
Monte Cristo above the ambient bandsaw
whose bite and zing carries across the river

downstream           bones in the midden
         winged chevron of fish traps
                     storied tumble of salmon

estuary   the tidal mouth of a large river
mud mouth      salt chew


2. We the marsh

Lost fish we
heart and flank the watershed
pave and unpave paradise      dismantle
the wall install it in a Ken Gerberick forest
with old cars rust      and moss      we oil and eagle
hawk and plover      crab and flounder      loon and grebe
we other the marsh

picked off by seals at the killing wall      salmon
diminish      the mill closes      but
salt marsh fills in      toxins in the surface clay

orphans of the living sediment we face the stars
water eyed      hunger for the cold sea
to toss and return the story
     begin again

with Pacific cinquefoil       tufted hairgrass
herring roe in the eel grass      camas and shooting stars

begin again with a village      and a name


“Kus-kus-sum” is reprinted from Sweet Water: Poems for the Watersheds (2020), with permission from the publisher, Caitlin Press.