More Than a Decade of Healing

Whatcom Creek
June 10, 1999

By James Bertolino

We must ask questions of the world.
Liam, and Wade, and Stephen.
The anguish has been long, long and we look down.

What was green and living became billowing black
and brown. How can we ask boys to be the ones
to suffer for what they didn't do?

The ruptured pipe that savaged our lives.
A travesty in the safety of a public park.
Stephen, and Liam, and Wade.

The body count was thousands of Steelhead, Coho, Chinook,
and the river otter Liam loved to watch.
Where are Wade, and Stephen, and Liam?

We ask the world why must the young ones pay
for the malfeasance of their elders?
And like Nature, can our spirit renew?

Then we look to the charred trees, black sentinels
with twisted limbs saying go away, stay back.
And beside them are saplings and flowers in bloom.

We who lost faith have built faith anew.
What has been torn we make whole again
with our love for Liam, and Wade, and Stephen.


James Bertolino’s poetry has been appearing internationally in books, magazines and anthologies for almost 40 years. His first book, Drool, was published in 1968, and his most recent appeared in 2002––34 years later. His poetry has been recognized by the Book-of-the-Month Club Poetry Fellowship, the Discovery Award, a Hart Crane publication award, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, two Quarterly Review of Literature book awards and other regional and national prizes.

Nine volumes and fourteen chapbooks of his poetry and prose have been published by such presses as Copper Canyon, Carnegie Mellon, New Rivers, Ithaca House and the QRL Award Series. Two of his out-of-print books have been reprinted by the Connecticut College Contemporary American Poetry Archive. He holds an MFA from Cornell University and has taught creative writing at Cornell Washington State, University of Cincinnati, Willamette University and, currently, Western Washington University. Such magazines as Ploughshares, Poetry, Notre Dame Review, Indiana Review, Partisan Review, Florida Quarterly, Beloit Poetry Journal, Raven Chronicles, StringTown and Crab Creek Review have printed his poems.

Recent anthologies include Poets Against the War from The Nation Books and Under A Silver Sky: Pacific Northwest Poetry from Evergreen State College. His latest volume is Pocket Animals: 60 Poems, published in 2002 by Egress Studio Press.

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