This Coast


This coast named for the Redwoods is

and has been for an eon

in convergence:

convergence of the solid rock of land and sea

with molten earth;

of rivers with the ocean;

the Wiyot, Pah-to-waht and We-ke,

the Yurok, Hupa and Whilkut

with invaders and with one another;

of urbanites with people of the land;

the past with the present and the future.


The stories of its people

begin and end with the earth:

the land that separates us with distance

and indifference

while drawing us together

in struggle at the breast of its wealth;

land divided, diverging from itself,

yet colliding and comingling—

faulted and flowing,

dying and rising at once;

land accreted and uplifted to icy grandeur,

all the while crumbling and eroding

into the sea from which it came.


To the south,

where the rotation of the basaltic

basin of the Pacific Plate

and the granite known as North America

meet in mirrored motion

at the western edge of the continent,

deep rifts in the earth’s crust

allow the plates to slip past one another

with lurching temblors,

but without direct collision.


Beyond the fault called San Andreas,

to north and south

volcanic fissures extrude dense,

sea floor basalt

from the edge of the Pacific,

creating smaller plates––

the Farallon, the Cocos, the Rivera,

the Juan de Fuca and the Gorda––

that are pressed ahead

of the colossal bowl of the ocean,

to be fractured and subducted

beneath the rising continent.


From molecule to megalith,

with a slowness that is stillness,

the solid ocean floor of the Gorda plate

meets the granite land

and is transformed.


Deeper, heavier rock

is drawn into the mantle,

to melt and continue

the long convective cycle of rebirth;

lighter, shallower rock,

gathered for hundreds of millions of years

by the seafloor in its dark traverse,

rising above the undertow

like foam upon a lithic wave,

is accreted into the base

of the growing coastal range

at the edge of the continental plate.


While above,

in eroded folds

the duff and dross of life,

the clay, sand and tar

the mud, silt and soil of living earth

pulse, green and glistening in the sunlight.


As always and everywhere,

the land will draw the rain

and rain will draw the land

into the sea.


But the land clings to itself at the end

in alluvial fans and flood plains—

and at the eroded mouths of rivers,

muddy and choked on backwaters,

building and rebuilding

seawalls of silt and sand

that hold the sweet, green water

and its treasure of soil,

lagoons and bays will form,

and people will come

to live upon their shores.