Thursday, October 1, 2015

Seattle's Civic Poet

The Mayor's Art Awards at Seattle Center on September 4th was the site of my first official reading.
Here I am with Mayor Murray at the Chihuly Garden and Glass right before going onstage .

Photograph courtesy of Marcus Donner

Seattle’s Poem

Seattle is a house
on the comings
and goings
of water and wind
ripple of fish
feather of crow
early morning
ferry yawn

Seattle I say
and invoke
a man and a place
the two inseparable
not proportional
not parallel
but as language
is to poem
and salt to sea

I watch bridges, bicyclists, boats
summer blankets tendered
on public lawns
I watch fiery sunsets
tango and sway above jagged peaks
and autumn trees bursting gold
up and down hilly streets

Nevertheless before
I postcard and gloss
and more sunsets
and more trees
find their way into my lines
I must confess
the house’s foundation
is in places brittle
and many rooms are dark
for windows lack

Plenty have I been
on the receiving end
of rehearsed indifference
heard enough shallow
arguments on who belongs here
to wake up scooping
ocean water with a spoon
we are all here
that need to be

The city is concrete and steel
plus the sum of its people
every day we destroy
our house
then race to remake it
those narrow windows
block future’s view
mute voices
that need to be heard
muffle the sound
of the falling tree limb
heavy with ripe plums

Every day we tread
over Chief Sealth’s legacy
his prophetic words,
“At night when the streets
are silent (..) and you think
them deserted,
they will throng
with the returning hosts
that once filled them
and still love this land”

We are not alone
save for his people
we are all immigrants here
waiter, teacher,
artist, worker, nurse
we belong
all of us belong
Seattle is a house
we all need to afford

Claudia Castro Luna


  1. Hi!

    I was given your name by Ann Teplick. I am a member of the Columbia City Gallery and we have started a new Literary series. We had our first event a couple of weeks ago and I was thrilled by the work that was presents and how engaged the audience was. Our poets were Daemond Arrindell, Samar Abulhassan, Irene Keliher and Saundra Fleming. They spoke on the theme of “crave”.

    We plan to host this event once a month…at least for the next few months. We were fortunate enough to get a sponsor for our first five months. Each month has a theme and we are asking the poets/writers to speak to that theme.

    I am looking for poets/writers for our next event on Sunday, November 8th from 5-7pm at the gallery. This month’s theme is “the simple act of saying thank you”. I would love it if you would consider presenting your work at this event.

    If you would be interested, please let me know. We can’t offer much, but we would like to offer a $25 stipend for your participation.


    Ellen Hochberg

  2. I enjoyed the Newshour piece on the poetic geography of Seattle. I live on a houseboat on Lake Union and here is a poem on the geography of that piece of Seattle:

    By the bold light of trawlers

    I live in the city where young people sit
    before terminals plunking away
    With ear buds they toil in interior worlds
    And relax with a Facebook foray.

    I’m sitting myself before a large screen
    With gargantuan font I can see
    So I’ll cast no stones and issue no screed
    Where none lives Amazon® free.

    But I ponder when cycling to work in the dark
    Do these well paid kids pay a price
    When they never explore or launch a bold lark
    Without aid of a gaming device?

    They write lines of code to track my each move
    They know what it is I should buy
    They know before I do what it is I behoove
    With a space bar they know how to pry

    As I pedal I’m bathed by the bold light of trawlers
    Massive in dry dock repair
    Whose crews brave seas and face life as brawlers
    With rough water, storms and despair

    These ships cast beams of light to the shore
    To my two-wheeled skiff as I slip
    Past potholes turned puddles that pool in a pour
    They’re beacons for my daily trip

    Past rusting hulks on the edge of Lake Union
    A forgotten economy
    And yet they offer a brief communion
    For the desk-ridden wannabe.

    Best, John Phillips