Tod Marshall, a poet and professor at Gonzaga University, is serving as the poet laureate from 2016-2018. He is the author most recently of Bugle (2014), which won the Washington State Book Award in 2015. He succeeds poets Elizabeth Austen (2014-2016), Kathleen Flenniken (2012–2014), and Sam Green (2007–2009).
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That Ongoing Work
Most of us know only smoke: dirty gauze, grey
weight on each cough of an hour. Red eye
of the sun lingering, that slow arson
plotting with lightning, both hiding in clouds,
and worse: most of us have occasionally cursed
the haze, rubbed watery eyes, mumbling my day,
my breath, my unburnt minutes. We’re like that. Try,
instead, to feel real heat, to hold hands open
and near hot embers, blue propane of a grill;
to see meat slowly sear, grease sizzle
into cinder. It’s okay if you fail.
Just try. And try, too, beneath blue skies when wind
clears smoke away, try to recall the blackened land,
and maybe try becomes a small act to heal the abundant ash, the pain.