methow grist 2011-2014 archive


before you were born this was everything I knew about you

Once, on a brown picnic table

there was a cup left out

with a drop of mint tea

and a spider in the bottom.

I took the cup and wiped it out

with my finger, setting the spider on the edge

of the damp table to watch it escape

into the crack between the boards

then, forgetting what I was doing,

I licked the sweet tea off my finger.

I thought of you then

and even tried to say your name,

but it would be months

before we were to be introduced.

This then, was my premonition

and I wrote it down:

the spider, the cup

the fine grit of autumn

stuck, like your name,

on the tip of my tongue,

like getting to be alive

more than twice.

John Straley first came to the Methow in 1963 for a family pack trip with Jack Wilson and three years later went to work for him. When Wilson sold out to Claude Miller, Straley was thrown into the deal and he packed for Claude through 1975. After a summer working for the Courtney family in Stehekin, he then moved to Sitka, Alaska where his horse career ended and his writing career began. Straley has seven published novels along with the book of poetry that this poem came from: ‘The Rising and the Rain’ from the University of Alaska Press,