By Jake Sheff

I Trust Your Highness Will Excuse my Being Opal Creek

“Do a similarity of paths in life and a similarity of situations give rise to a similarity in characters? As a general thing it doesn’t. For people with strong minds and spirits of their own it does not. They have their own solutions, their own special traits, and they can be very surprising.” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

I shall not copy the optative mood of the stars;
Nor shall I occupy the sky, my LORD. Your rules
Alone shall I observe; reality can’t control me. 

I shall keep Your laws; the sin of being dull is
In lockstep with autumn’s metronome. The best
Ideas are most misunderstood; I shall be kind

And show concern: a pleasing odor to the LORD.
Like people, sunlight needs a cause to matter; 
Causes need unbreakable beliefs to shine. I shall 

Not uncover my interrobang if it is not ready 
For prime time. I shall not uncover Wyatt’s 
And Surrey’s filtration if the day prefers to hear 

The world is ending and reality defies flirtation. 
I shall not uncover the waterfall that proves
While it is easy to fall it is hard to fall well. I

Shall not uncover that while fighting evil, some
Forget the evil in themselves; it uses elderly
As an adverb. I shall not uncover the hyperbole

Connecting song and dance to society and day;
It is the unction going crazy trying to save
The world, and the naturally popular cedars

Should like to read it. I shall not complain, “They 
Suppressed Galileo, too,” for the stars to say,
“You’re not him,” my LORD; it is an abhorrence.

I shall not want a way; not every creek is happy 
With the one it has: it is perversion, and no empty 
Way in need of water fails to find some, my LORD. 

A Weatherbeaten Sunday at Multnomah Falls has Entered the Lists

“As a driver, you are ultimately responsible for recognizing and reacting correctly to changing conditions, signed or not.” Oregon Driver Manual, 2020-2021

“[T]he sound of a shaken leaf shall chase them; and they shall flee, as fleeing from a sword; and they shall fall when none pursueth.” Leviticus 26:36

You crane your ignorance to view her from the highway
And history of Ukraine. She brings you Indias that
Come all the way from your ideas. You listen to

The instant work, work, work, like something installed
With a screwdriver… A song is basically a person
Made of sounds, you see. She names names, 

To emphasize and reinvigorate her subject matter: 
Freedom, bondage and hybrid male sterility. 
I think there’s a Dollar Tree around here, but you

Exit your mistrust of idolatry to get a closer look.
You interlarded the Cascade Mountain Range
With high-occupancy visions painted by Hans

Holbein the Younger. She is not like politicians’
Broken promises, reeking of ptomaine and
Back issues of Pravda. She looks at you expecting

Sin: it’s hard to see yourself in such a light; it’s
Hard to see, and such a fright. An eagle’s
Flight, in situ, speaks to someone it calls ‘Mr.

Secretary’ inside you. To beautify the brutal, 
Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach has no memory
Of you, but I stole power and a purpose from

It last weekend. You test her bridge, and brush
Aside a detail with the pride of Ernst Kirchner.
Pride hates dissent, will put it down by force. 

The truth, by power of its argument alone, can 
Change your course. Survive, survive, survive, 
She pleads with scientific love. I’m cavalier

About what isn’t clear, but you’re the type who,
If the sun refused to set, would have to do
Something about it. Multnomah Falls is like

The bird who decided just yesterday not to
Migrate with all the rest. You shape her to your 
Liking, looking for a wrong to right. She doesn’t 

Miss a beat; whatever isn’t perfect has to die. 
“Worry is morally satisfying when your thirst for 
Pity is quenched,” I’m told. You hosed me, worry; 

I was hosed. (Worry can be such a lorry sometimes.)
You want her to prove reality does not control
My speech, nor does it control your thought. We are

Constrained only by what exists, not by what occurs;
The shape of life. She seeks what can’t be known;
In this alone, she is exceptional. Her thoughts are like

Museums: full of objects never seen outside. I asked
Her thieves if it was true that poetry thrives when
People are free. (They are like a herd of zebras, moving

In the same direction: it is an impressive sight, but
Which of them is best for putting in the zoo?) “Yes,”
They said. “That this is so is surprising to no one,

Save the fella’ in the concert hall who’s unaware
The sounds he hears he’ll never hear outside.”
Now I assume, like everyone, sometimes they lie.

The Anteroposterior Diameter of Love on the Molalla River

“O sister! May you grow into thousands of myriads; may your offspring seize the gates of their foes.” Genesis 24:60-61

This river always yearns for a pain-free workday.
It takes no pleasure in having numerous lovers.
Every river longs to be taken care of. This river

Never thinks of Bruges without the Pudding River
Flying off the handle about the Khmer Rouge.
Instead of I have to, this river always says, I choose

To, and it never chooses wrong. Just look at how,
On Ogle Creek, banned opinions are flying
Off the shelves! This river constantly turns its

Tacit noise into the King’s English when it flows
Under Knight’s Bridge. Most rivers turn up
Their noses at (and run from) wonder. Certainly,

All rivers would be more boisterous in Boise…
Brad Pitt can’t play this river’s yetzer hara. 
Certainly, no river’s angrier than Simeon and Levi,

Or better than berry brown betty. Self-esteem
And violence go together like the Willamette and
Columbia Rivers; in effect, the Hwy 211 bridge

Is the biggest fan of YA dystopian novels. I was
Here, 594 years ago, on the Hardy Creek Trailhead
When the weather was warm. I thought this river

Was the be-all and end-all of parens patriae, and I
Never thought wrong. Now my pain approaches
Like a penguin every time I touch the nose of world

Opinion, which is never here. Everyone knows
Presentism’s malolactic fermentation drinks 
A poet’s proud imagination under the table at Table

Rock Wilderness any time Uranus makes
The universal choking sign. In Marquam, alpacas bow
To eat, which definitely is intended to placate

Hay Barn Creek and the gold mining ghosts at
Time’s gates. Talent-tall deception: it costs nothing
And lasts forever. Minnette Creek traded liberty to 

Be the letter C: she ultimately demonstrates compassion 
Isn’t necessary or sufficient for producing a good 
Deed; she’s the worst at putting trench warfare into 

Raku ware – to see this at its best, go see the ground 
When it’s dressed in crimson, velvet and white satin. And, 
And now, Molalla River just can’t let her be, refuting 

Reason and causality. (Few and hard have been the years 
Of their lives. Who sacrificed them, a million times, 
In Tenochtitlan?) This river, listening to the revealer of 

Secrets and REM’s Man on the Moon, hears, “I’ll see 
You in heaven if you make the list,” and experiences 
Delayed-onset déjà vu. Woodcock Creek can’t flow 

Without its colchicine and fawning press. Static 
On Dungeon Creek is gathered to its kin (the Stasi). Look 
Out! The worst ideas are definitely coming through, 

And Milk Creek struggles to submit in view of Mt. Angel’s 
Summit (a.k.a. Lone Butte). From the looks of it, 
Avalanche Creek has just seen The Vagina Monologues

For the first time. Her language is from the land of isn’t. 
She smokes the best answer to humanity’s problems
Near maybe’s vantage point on a rail bridge in Canby. 

We Install a Sump Pump on (What Used To Be) a Holiday (Take 7)

“Shame on the world! said I to myself – Did we love each other, as this poor soul but loved his ass – ‘twould be something.” Laurence Sterne, A Sentimental Journey

This eyeshadow overjoys my vision – almost
Fills a void – because the goddamn world, like
Some ongoing onion, makes me cry. Names
Are tools, but I am unsure of the tool you named
Just now, hon; you said it’s behind your wheelchair,
Underneath a box of ammo? In the vortex

Of angelic opinions, quiet bodies always have
Too much to say. Constant ecstasy never 
Says to sorrow, ‘Sorry about that.’ But I do
Apologize for any long hairs on the soap bottle. Here’s 
That screwdriver. Since the flood, there hasn’t been
A pair of hands in the vortex happier than mine!

I’m not cut out for having my expectations
Unfulfilled, or swatting mosquitoes; that ain’t
Me. You might tell me, “Jim, the powers that
Be sin for the benefit of a broken ghost, and
Not their own,” but the vortex won’t discipline
Itself by words alone. I don’t mind if my dress tears…

We Install a Sump Pump on (What Used To Be) a Holiday (Take 14)

“I want to tell you a little about myself and my ways. If everyone was like me, there’d be no lawsuits or dragging one another off to gaol, and no wars: everyone would be satisfied with a moderate competence. But you may like things better as they are. Then live that way. The cantankerous and bad-tempered old man won’t stop you.” Menander, Old Cantankerous 

“Too much cleverness and too much learning, accompanied with an ill bringing-up, are far more fatal than total ignorance.” Plato, Laws

Without a trace of irony, today’s perfectly insane 
Acoustics house the most left-handed laughter in 
All creation. This is, in fact, a moral victory; this
Stranger’s death by a thousand perhapses. Scraps
Of my conscience’s prelapsarian caste system need
To drown with him in the vortex of crap. It freed

My break-action diaphragm; divine misapprehension
When he offered replacement parts from his store. 
The rebelliousness of the human heart would exchange
The life of Riley for the wilderness; it rarely breaks
Itself. My fingers boast of blushing sands. They cry
Out ‘absit omen’ when I grab my phone with stodgy,

Toddler hands. My brain is no trainee great book: 
They are made of eternal flames; I’m all self-hating 
Cambium and melting flakes of Sturm und Drang. 
My hunger isn’t getting any younger, but it cries
A baby’s archaic tears. The day is pretty dumb and 
Bright; it might impress this vortex or a pretty girl. 

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