In honor of the recent passing of highly regarded Alaska poet, scholar, translator, historian and linguist Richard Dauenhauer, here are two poems from his most recent poetry collection, “Benchmarks: New and Selected Poems 1963-2013.” They are reprinted here with permission from the publisher, University of Alaska Press.
To read Wednesday’s front page story on Dauenhauer, visit http://juneauempire.com/local/2014-08-19/poet-translator-richard-dauenha...
(Juneau, Alaska, July 20, 1988)
— for the grandchildren of the Clan of Grass
In summer evening rain
with Dominic and Patrick, now
our family branch’s youngest great-
great-grandsons of Jim Nagatáak’w,
we look for salmonberries, here
at Marks Trail beachhead, where the old
outhouse still commands the finest
view of Juneau. We find them
by the weathered boat shed, stop
to admire the keel and ribs
of great-grandpa Willie’s last,
unfinished boat, perched like a great
plains burial, or stranded whale.
“Maybe we can finish it!”
says Dominic, as Patrick (two)
in yellow slicker, zeroes in
on salmonberries—huge, soggy,
red and orange ornaments
for a summer Christmas tree.
Behind the smokehouse we explore,
discover great-grandma Emma’s
raspberries—what’s ripe or ripening,
already picked, or past. We feast.
Our coats and pants collect the burrs
and tiny seeds of nameless grass.
Lunchtime at Taguchi’s
(An idyll for Sam and the Gang)
— In memory of Juneau’s finest greasy spoon restaurant and in memory of Sam Taguchi, January 22, 1918–December 20, 1995, and Takeshi “Gim” Taguchi, March 27, 1924–June 9, 1997
South Franklin Street, where paint’s
been peeling for a hundred years:
Taguchi’s Tea House, “Fine
Chow”—corned beef, adobo,
steamed black cod, pork noodles,
Britain burger deluxe—
nerve center of the world,
where fishermen and new
natives in three-piece suits
navigate each noon
through fog-bank grease. On walls,
like channel markers, photographs,
of local heroes: Sam
from his boat, and Michael
Avoian (“Bingo”) beams
proudly by his lamp,
and Tiger Olson from Taku
turns briefly from his beer;
the empty stool, where Vern
Metcalfe held his court all
afternoon. And others,
also mostly gone now,
chart shores of memory
past which the living move
to crowd at counterspace
or share a table, to
sustain ourselves above
our humble bowls below
these men immortalized
like figures on a Grecian urn.
This could be anywhere,
yet nowhere else but here.
We linger over food,
through steamy windows view
the people passing,
-- from “Benchmarks: New and Selected Poems 1963-2013” by Richard Dauenhauer, published in 2013 by the University of Alaska Press. Reprinted with permission from the publisher.
Community members who would like to contribute to a remembrance article about Dauenhauer for next week’s Arts can contact Arts Editor Amy Fletcher at firstname.lastname@example.org.