Island Plaguerounds

Poems by Andy Havens


Light the fires
lace the shoes
follow the leashless dogs!

Put your shoulder to the breaking of the fog

Death awaits, yes!
But you can march on him
and make him doubt –

and make him pause


March 2020, They Don’t Paint Lanes on the Water

You can stand at the dock
now and not be bothered much
by boats. Looking hard you can see it –
the road worn into the water where
the flat-bottomed ferries once
went up and down all day.

The islands want none of us
and won’t come. Vashon squats
with its aliens in a patch-tattered
yurt that shrouds the shore in
smoke-yellow walls – a bit put off
by the virus across the bay.

Bainbridge and Whidbey salute the San Juans
who can finally keep the orcas and grays to themselves.

From shore to shore the semaphore
warns that plagues are made on the
mainland – they’d have us keep our fevers
here. The few running boats ride high
above the jellyfish. Two tired men
throw limp ropes to an empty pier.



Let me first ask –
is it ok to wish for waves?
The South Sound is too calm to mount.
We see no breadloaf vans spilling surfboards
in the street. No swells, no breaks. So I ask –
is it ok to wish for waves?

Here is a good place for a mother’s reminder-
be happy with what you have.

But how be happy?
The lordly boy stands pearl-kneed
in a sea that never much stirs.
The hollow parts of his body
commune with the deep but needs must

wait…     wait…

Why so much sea if no waves come?
No rhythm, no thrum.
Though the tidal brine climbs his thighs
it recedes without heat. He knows no moon –
no salt-pound to sting his whalebone shins
and by dusk he implodes with curses.

That sacrilege calls to the altar
the long canoes of the Salish –
carved here with eagle,
here with salmon –
paddled up and tied to a fire hydrant
so an overfished Indian can climb out and
shout across the bike path

the Lushootseed word is whulge

Oracular, he divines a mute future
in the swirling oil on his coffee, then
scoffs as he dumps it through a drain
painted like an orca’s mouth and asks

why say whulge

That name’s as full of sound as sound itself
and yet the Puget makes none unless the storms come.
We simply haven’t here that sort of sea.

Ten thousand years ago
a scrimshaw-skinned Duwamish said


because it was the Sound she heard
when her hollow boy imploded,
bone deep in the kelp-rot
of another warless summer,
wishing for waves.


Blake Island Lullaby

In Lincoln Park
the orcas break

the surface of
the sound and I

sit down because
I know the look

on the face of
that sky spilling

shyly out from
Blake Island.

It will pour stories into the forest.

But it will tell
them the way you

tell stories to
a baby or a headstone:

mostly to itself.


The Longest Sentence in the World

The world’s first murderer
(here Cain’s dust coughs a proud mote)
breaches quarantines to meet
not the cowering flowers
of a beaten people.

Skirmishers of the timeless virus
face good bodies and strong.
What fear they carry is shared…
walked off…
drawn out and dispersed
to the bone-drumming thrum
of the empty ferry’s engines

in reverse.


andy-havenAndy Havens writes Pacific Northwest poetry from his home in West Seattle. His work has been published by Seattle University and by the online publication Whatever Keeps the Lights On. He recently won the Welcome the Orcas poetry contest, held by The Whale Trail. His hobbies include wondering where the time goes, and waiting for the emergence of the Kraken.