Jake Sheff

Stranger’s Progress at the Hedges Creek Wetlands

“Yes. The state that neither needs nor uses perfume has not, as you say, been invented.” — John Ashbery & James Schuyler, A Nest of Ninnies

“Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.” — Psalm 146:3-4

Suppose the next voice you hear will be less civilized
Than stone. Well I did that, and these wetlands became
The kind of chair you’re not supposed to sit on.

Supposing me to be just another word for quite, these
Wetlands were flooded with the scent of gold.
Standing like a martini glass on top of a grand piano,

A resident green heron draws a perfect circle in
The air, in its suburban gloom. A label scrounging mud
Reads “Sodium 0mg.” Not to be outdone, a gadwall’s

Helper T cell sends the message, “OMG,” to Canis
Minor and beyond. To me, the forested Sweek Pond
Natural Area comes in all colors of the rainbow.

Now, I’d’ve thought those shopping centers would’ve
Come with a side of sarcasm. Weird doesn’t even
Begin to describe the none-too-lengthy diatribe of that

Common egret, holding back the desert’s tears. Growing
Bored and a beard, the cold season here gets rewritten
By the spirit of Edgar Allen Poe each year. This younger

Generation of mergansers shows no interest in having
Their wings redirected by Alfred Hitchcock. To be
Fair, my flexor digiti minimi brevis never answers what

The scaups can’t ask it. Supposing nobody ever tries to
Scam me, I should like very much to see the Tualatin River
Sing someday; it tempts me strangely. It speaks so well,

In Algerian, half-tired whispers…What it says, not even
The coots can tell you offhand. “‘Make it otherworldly,’
Is what I think Ezra Pound meant”: some old zoning law,

Maybe the one responsible for the Fred Meyer store, is
Just going to put that out there. Supposing rutile futility
Is usually uncountable, the remains of the mastodon

In the public library should possess a futile rutilance,
Correct? These Garry oaks need more time to understand
My romantic science. What can I say, but ‘unique

New York’? The marshes were probably doomed
To be filled in their entirety; their fate was supposedly
Sealed sometime between the Council of Jamnia

And Love Actually. But the advocacy of Althea Pratt
And Jack Broome was aggressively civil. You
Shovelers and buffleheads know it! (One shoveler

Is looking at me, as if to ask, ‘I know what?’) Entropy
Thinks I’m wrong, because I disagree with its style
Of office management. What entropy wants, entropy

Gets. But the flow of Hedges Creek is a Voltarian act…
One would think entropy has never been to a creek
Before. To each invisible force, its own calvados, I

Suppose. During the wet season, a barefoot cobbler
Impresses me not at all, unless they’re walking
In nature’s restraining order. In the cold season’s

Melodrama, that Taco Bell is a controversial work
Of art that no one cares to explain, but to the resident
Great blue heron, it is a veritable Der Spiegel.


On a Day the Sandy River Sings (and Lords It over Mt. Adams)

“Too much love for angels breeds misanthropy.” — An anonymous idiot

Tercel-terse from road rage, some rivers feel
Like what they always fail to be, yet she
Is written in a Spanish meter. Yet her pen –

The wonder-wanderer’s magic wand – is
Penitence personified. Today hasn’t plopped
Like a toad into her penumbra with pneumonia

Yet. But yesterday, the sunset dropped
Everything when it heard Mt. Adams, yet
Again, exploit our fears and flatter our pride;

Its thirty-gun salute for peace! What naked
Lengths the rivers go to, making lenses
No one’s looked through yet. And yet,

A cupronickel light – parqueted upon Mt.
Adams’ height – cries down, “Equality’s
The greatest good!” It’ll get you yet; but

Taken out of context, this firewall’s farewell
Will get you wet. “And her toothbrush, as
Of yet, is always clean,” you might hear if

Mt. Adams speaks too freely. Bet on this:
Toadyism, rubbing its eyes, will declare,
“Harmony in life is rare.” And yet, the Sandy

River’s words – what she preaches via
Riffles and eddies – are in perfect harmony
With all the birds. What yet may come has

Milk and hidden qualities; the future’s
Primitive. Our Sandy River flows like yester-
Day a fish’s memory wept. And yet her

Banks have recipes for respite only
Douglas firs can read. In Wasco County,
Pride is life’s defining feature, despite

Mt. Adams standing tallish, like the music –
Yet again – of Thomas Tallis. Breath-bred on
A honeyed hillside, I eyed her voices

Galloping, and yet, at the same time, they
Tried to think smaller. “Nations peak, or
Never rise at all,” she said. And I didn’t

Sleep for three days. Forget for a second,
In the midst of our insane century, jilted fires
Extinguished mores and the spirit of

Adventure, only to replace them with the smoky
Insecurity of Yet. Years are what set the standard
For yearning; cool, colossal years. And yet,

For a second – remember: a mountain’s story
Rides on good and evil; rivers’ rest on love –
The Sandy River and Mt. Adams went

Together like the law and bread. I read their
Response to the charge that they aren’t
Washed up yet; both are smarter than I am.


Putting My Hand into Human Nature’s Bosom

“And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you.” — Exodus 13:19

Lord, these bones are eloquent. Here is what they
Say: This corn-pone day is too statuesque? Time
Isn’t everything, Moses.
And I hear Aaron’s
Legends and laughter

Winch the people. Willing to kill a person
For the cackling moon; how come evil never
Learns, my Lord? These bones say: Behind the truth, where
Gravity’s mother

Spared what spread, no adjectives live. Like poems,
Miriam dances best with strong readers. Flowers,
Slow of speech and willing to die for children,
Venture their druzy

Joie de vivre. Nano-emotions fill me,
Lord; too many adjectives. Now these bones say:
Every nation’s blighted by pre-commitments,
Something they’re forced to

Love, to fill with graves and to fill their graves. Lord,
That’s a pretty song for a self-addressed stamped
Envelope! Nobody can tell me Aaron’s
Speech is encrusted

By my snowy scales, or it doesn’t have the
Right amount of adjectives. When the oppo-
Site of suicide walks by, Moses listens;
Cosmic connections.