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Two Poems, I.S. Welsh


What is it, Clifton?

Why’d I come back to be

Near you,

Near the ruins of what was–

The fish heads

The sea lions

The workers

The pines.

Why’d I come back to this place

As if a steamboat had dropped me off

At the wrong dock

And I, travel weary,

Had stepped to shore without question

Except for where

Can I lay down

My things?

What is it, Clifton?

Why’d you have to draw me

Down that road

Off the highway

So I’d lay my eyes

On the water-logged posts

Standing loyally


In the river

Like a whole slew of hosts

Waiting to welcome me


Or maybe

Their backs are turned

To me

As they wait for their ships

Arriving from the sea–

Ghost ships.

They wait

And wait

As the dregs of the cannery

Sway at their bases

And real fish

Swim by.

What, Clifton, is it

That you expect me to do

Knowing you

Held your workers captive–

No stores near by

No train

No boat

For days

At a time

No language to share

Just bunks and stoves

Knives and cans

The smell

Of fish

And fish again.

Clifton, what is it


My being here

Amidst nothing left

Save workers’ great


Smoking meth

Amidst their children

And a chance

A small chance

One among them might be

The millionaire’s descendent




You eaters of men.

You launchers of rocks

From high cliffs.

I see you and all your antics.

You think I’m fazed

By your big show?

You think I’m all a flutter with fear

Over your gastronomic histrionics?

You burp the taste of my sailors

Pick a femur out from between your teeth

Run your tongue across your lips

For a bit more brain

A morsel more braun.

I know a bad thing when I see it.

You act like you’re the worst

A person could ever encounter

But I’m half way home

And I’ve seen plenty.

At some point it just becomes

The next new thing.

Nothing worse or better.



Now this.

Now we’ve got giants

Eating our scouts

And throwing rocks at us.

I mean,


It’ll be a good story to tell some day

Along with all the others.

But it’s not like I’m going to say to my grandkids

“But oh! You should have seen those


They were the end all and be all!”

Because you know what?

You weren’t.

You just plain old weren’t.

Really, you were just like a bad date

Among a handful of bad dates.

Something to shrug off

Then forget

Because there’s more important things

To think about.


How tired I am

How hardened I am

How fricking lucky I am

That my wife

Has stuck with me

Through all this hullabaloo

I’ve been through.

Boats and war and water and monsters

And these women

Always trying to seduce me

Into forgetting

I’ve already got it


You big meatheads

You big doofuses

Got nothing

On those women.

Go ahead and eat my sailors.

That’s nothing compared

To the sirens’ song

And the rope marks

Still burned into my skin

From riding it out

While bound to the mast

All blue balled.


You’re just a meager


A bunch of pea-brained


Keeping the story going

Till I get back

To my own


Keep hurling rocks

As I sail away.

I’ll stand at the aft

Flip up my skirt

And fart at you

As water splashes up on my sandals.

That’s how much I care.

Life does this

To a man.

Tough skin

And a cynical heart–

Lucky for you

I wasn’t the one you

Bit into.

Any way you big oafs,

Last time I’ll be visiting you.

You’ve already grown smaller

With each nautical mile

My ship’s sailed away from you.

Tiny little men.

A tiny chapter.

Hardly even that.

A foot note.

Watch your feet.

Water’s cold and deep

And you are shallow little things

With appetites immature

And not one good story

To tell.


I.S. Welsh is a writer living in the Pacific Northwest.

I.S. Welsh is a writer living in the Paci

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