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Two poems by Richard Dauenhauer, 1942-2014

Posted: August 21, 2014 - 12:01am
Richard Dauenhauer sits with his wife, Nora Marks Dauenhauer, during a reception honoring her as Alaska's State Writer Laureate at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center in November 2012. Richard, former Alaska State Writer Laureate and a highly regarded poet, scholar, linguist and translator, died Tuesday in Juneau.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Richard Dauenhauer sits with his wife, Nora Marks Dauenhauer, during a reception honoring her as Alaska's State Writer Laureate at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center in November 2012. Richard, former Alaska State Writer Laureate and a highly regarded poet, scholar, linguist and translator, died Tuesday in Juneau.

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...

“Seed Dispersal”

(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—

cholesterol galore,

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,

a gallery

of local heroes: Sam

Samaniego glances

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,

forever beautiful.

 

-- 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 amy.fletcher@juneauempire.com.

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