Literary Hook: A poem about discovering a place all your own

August 19, 2009

By Christine Swanberg

Author and Poet

As summer begins to wane, many of us wrap up our summers with a trip to a special place that speaks to our hearts. Sometimes, we literally fall in love with a place that seems to capture something we need. For me, it isn’t the luxurious hotel or the group effort of a cruise that satisfies me. It’s discovering something new and all your own.

Some 25 years or so ago, my husband and I discovered a magical place quite by accident—Oceanside, Ore. To get there from Portland, you have to drive through Tillamook, which is an authentic cowboy and dairy town that still has old-fashioned barber shops.

Oceanside itself has a magnificent beach flanked by cliffs and a lighthouse to the north. This place has become a favorite haunt, and I have written a number of pieces inspired by it. Perhaps you, too, have a place that has become a ritual for you. If so, you will surely understand this poem.

Again, on the Road to Tillamook

Heading west from Portland to Tillamook,

rain on the windshield,

the wipers syncopating

like the radio’s jazz, your fingers

tapping the steering wheel,

and suddenly I’m whistling a riff,

rolling down the windows,

catching a cool spray

against my shoulder,

thinking of a question to steer us

through the mountains,

deciding on no talk: just jazz,

soybean fields rolling by,

blue mountain’s rim of sun,

slash of amber cloud,

hint of moon. Then

we’re really in the thick of it:

Sonny Rollins,

the silence of elk.

We’re blinking past Lee’s Camp Store,

where the radio gives up the ghost.

All stillness and the Pacific’s tug.

We have mastered this: driving

where even jazz can’t follow

to the other side, a pasture of cows,

rich odor of Tillamook.

Just ahead, where we can go

no further: the sea, the sea.

Published in Poetswest and Who Walks Among the Trees with Charity.

Christine Swanberg is a local author and poet who has written several books of poetry and formerly wrote a column called “The Writer’s Garret” for this newspaper.

From the Aug. 19-25, 2009 issue

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