Columbia River Sutra (Brandon Lamson)

The intention to dedicate my actions to the liberation of all beings underscores my creative work which explores the connective tissues that bind us to each other and the world. —Brandon Lamson

Praise be the river finders
                      and their currents of healing estuary.
A yellow boombox throbs on the faux wood paneling
of the motel dresser as she straddles me,
                      her face pierced
by fish hooks and beads the color of salmon eggs.

I drive her back to the park where swaths of green
bisect the city into encampments of corporate flow.

Her Indian friend Mighty Mouse
recruits me for the tribal basketball team.
We ain’t so tall, but we got moves.

Follow the river.
                     Purchase a board and cruise to the skate park
near the Columbia Bridge underpass. She swore
I’d find them here, the homeless kids they call trolls

soliciting tribute, the goat shepherdesses
selling broken staffs
                     as Cerebus sprawls in broken light
like a duffel bag of greased barrels without triggers.

Afternoons of stunt tricks and withdrawal,
the king’s men racing above
                     from castle to castle,

office high rise to condo ensconced by mountain views,
Mt. Saint Helens visible on clear days,
her peaks flattened and smoldering at their leisure.

I am not speaking of the bridge,
rather of plywood ramps and lean-tos
                     on these river banks
the Indians shunned, calling Portland the valley of sickness.

Praise be the river finders, river of suffering,
no Ganges of burning pyres,
                     this Columbia where suicides
are peppered with cloud spray,
milky rafts thrashed by dirty fish scales.

She rides me in the motel room as Fugazi pummels her boombox,

her face the face of my cousin in pain
except he’s 6’8” and bearded,
                     same jaw line and sockets hugely distorted
by gigantism, the head of Goliath
hewn quickly from beeswax then lit from within

so the features melt and lose their fine tuning,
like the mummy costume my mother sculpted

one Halloween from layers of toweling soaked in glue,
applying them to my face until only slits
for my nostrils and eyes remained, no mouth hole

so when I vomited before school
I had to rip open the mask, a muzzle of bees flying out.

Praise be them rivered and coming.
The king’s men house aquariums in their breasts,
still water that cannot breathe for the divers in their iron suits.

Define homeless outreach
                     beyond the tribal reservations
of Rikers and Bellevue,
sex offender registries and urban campgrounds

where these river finders are uncharted and unhouseled,
afflicted with shoddy footgear so I take them to my day job
at the Doc Martens warehouse and we ransack the aisles

for boots,
           ox-blood and steel-toed, plastered with pink skulls
or green shamrocks that glow in the dark
as we march to the castle gates,
                     our torches hissing in the rain.

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