Kim Shuck, Poet Laureate of San Francisco, writes a stunning long poem about her journey across the United States, what becomes a personal migration along its waterways. She names and transforms history, politics, nature’s beings, and her own ties to Cherokee Nation, of which she is an enrolled member. She notices “Selu” (corn in Cherokee), orchards, “dead gas stations,” and “ravens in parking lots.” In the flow of scenes, Shuck articulates an identity, “Americans are defined/by crossing water/Atlantic, Mississippi, Rio Grande, Pacific.” Place names of Latin, Spanish, and Algonkian origin wend together. An unanswered question haunts the verse as the poet moves in a terrain of observation and imagination. Readers join Shuck in creating possible responses.
Truck stop coffee
In through the passes
The satisfying watersheds whose punch lines we know
Here through the fog on the hillside
Through the sunwink and traffic of the floodplain
Here again among handprint bridges and watersong
Here at the straights