Stormy Oregon coast

Two Poems by Lex Runciman

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Finalist : 10th Annual Contest in Poetry

Beach Walking, Early March, No Hat

This is the tasteless water of souls.
Walt Whitman


In worry’s featureless gray I had walked out
and kept on along a margin of shore pines
leaned because they need to be, and I had walked
quickly, beset entirely by what is or might be
or is surely to come, and I did not think of weather,
how low pressure had hammered and hurled itself
all night’s mile by dark hour over water
until that riverous southwest to northeast caught
and shattered sudden across my shoulder
and made on the back of my scalp needle drills
quick to soak and drip, lull and gusts—
rain all the moment, and I’m leaning into it,
this ocean’s air of voices, all water off nose or brow
swept by wind away, as in that dim morning gray
I turned and started back, sure only
I will ever have done too little to merit this planet
of water and salt, its history, my history,
all souls, all I love, this moment, and this.



Keeping It All

Here are named and described
the kinds, ranges, and diets of penguin,
here the ascending order of clouds,
here the species of ants
with the preferred habitat of each.
These pages illustrate the designs
of medieval furniture, principally chairs
and stools, their materials, widths
and heights. Here, the doves
consumed from a rural dovecot, Sussex,
1638-1641, are recorded in a volume
handbound in calf in 1642.
These illustrations depict in watercolors
twenty separate tulips, a page for each,
these the species of fish
shorter than a finger. These hands,
each drawn from life, belong to a tanner,
a smith, a lace-maker, a wheelwright,
a milk maid, and a nun. Here at half-scale
you see the footprints of an Asian elephant,
a musk ox, a cougar, a pea fowl,
racoon, lemur, river otter, and heron.
Also drawn from life are these fifteen
depictions of the webs of spiders. 
And this last is a book of citrus blooms,
each with fruits cross-sectioned,
with growing season, ideal temperature,
and water asked for weekly, in measure
with the trunk’s circumference
one foot above the earth.




Lex RuncimanLex Runciman has published 12 books, including college texts, anthologies, and six books of poems, most recently Salt Moons: Poems 1981-2016 from Salmon Poetry in 2017. An earlier volume won the Oregon Book Award in poetry. Individual poems have received the Silcox Prize and the Kenneth O. Hanson Award. A new book from Salmon Poetry is forthcoming in 2021. Now retired, he lives in Portland, Oregon.
Read three poems from 2015 and three poems from 2002 by Lex Runciman appearing in, and read his essay, “The Place and the Photograph”.

Header photo of stormy Oregon coast by Freebilly Photography, courtesy Shutterstock. is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, art, commentary, and design since 1998.