On Cougar Mountain
by Clair Dunlapin the better life, we are so lucky
as to be the ferns growing amid the moss along the tree trunks.
we have never heard the clanging of a snow plow’s blade
across ice & concrete. we have never known a view touched
by gasoline and guns. we are intimately familiar
when we shut our eyes there is only the color of the mountain at a distance—
a purpleblue not otherwise named
outside the instant of its presence under the eyelid’s soft memory.
here the salmon are fat and good
and fished right.
here the orcas come home predictably, the babies growing
from placental red to white in time.
none of their mothers have ever carried their bodies postpartum
for weeks on end.
an unthinkable tragedy is simply unthinkable.
here the ocean doesn’t know oil.
from the tree trunk, we all watch the downy woodpecker or the barred owl
(taller than we might have imagined it). we hear the hum of bees
and wind and water farther off. no one invented the word highway.
if we are lucky enough to be born on the far side of the trunk
maybe we see the coastline. at the very least—
by which i mean, in the better version—
i feel its salted mist along my body.
and this is all i know,
and it is so, so good.
Clair Dunlap grew up just outside Seattle, Washington, and is the author of In the Plum Dark Belly (2016). Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in The Oakland Review, The Hopper, The Swamp Literary Journal, Hobart, Glass, and more. She currently lives in the Midwest.