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1250 Denny Way
Seattle, WA 98109
United States

Arne Pihl

Arne Pihl, "Here," commissioned by ALL RISE

Arne Pihl, Here

ALL RISE  invited Arne Pihl to create a poem  for the project’s inauguration. Pihl was asked to consider the history of the Cascade neighborhood as well as to look with aspiration toward the future of the place, both the very specific boundaries of the 90,000 square foot campus and the community that surrounds it. His poem begins with the glaciers that formed the land and attests to the shaping cultures, political and civic actions and struggles that have followed. The text is installed around the site in a series of eleven signs, one for each stanza. A particularly fitting line from the work “This is not a gentle poem,” is displayed in reflective vinyl on four 12 feet long and eight feet tall plinths at Denny Way.

 

 

Here
Arne Pihl


First there was ice

Then the neighborhood

Everything begins again

A place of love and energy is always new

Though the oldest churches of the city

Stand over graceful as canoes


This is not a gentle poem

Even though it began in the silk ears of the P-patch

And takes shape while neighbors sleep

Dandelions break pavement

It was words on paper in Prussian blue

That unleashed the freeway on Melrose Avenue


For ten thousand years

Children napped here

Learned the difference between wing and leaf

In Lushootseed, Swedish, Norwegian, Russian, English and Greek

While parents labored, laughed, carved livelihood and dignity

From woods, lake and streets


But first the ice

Towering right here two miles thick

Grinding silt from rock as it carved the belly

It would lay into one day

For fluid dreams and restless sleep

Below the traffic of Mercer Street


Mud and silence left behind a canvas for newness

The first rush of colonists

Birds and insects, seeds and flowers

A wild revolution of song and color

Waves of yellow, white, purple, green

A dizzying rush of trees


Animals and people followed

Perhaps as in stories of Duwamish

All at once

Waved in by cedar limbs

Fingers of salal and wapato

Vowels of water thick with consonants of fish


What do we do but create?

Are we any other than a glacier

That moves a hill, birds that sing and build nests?

A word is a tool

A tool an impulse to begin a path

Our homes places of changing and change


People introduced their craft

The long house and fish traps

Boat carving and weaving

Trails cut and maintained for thousands of years

To bays in the south

And great lake to the east


Denny and the aspirations of city arrived

Walked in from the coast

Made this the first place of industry

Mills and boatyards, brewery, furniture shop, auto factory

The vast laundry that would press shirts and sheets

And set the stage for workers to win two free days a week


Craft and conflict

It would be disingenuous to ignore the battles

Between boss and worker, planner and resident, money and not

Contention as visions clashed, buildings crushed

But we are here, garden, playground beautiful lush green

People and stones electric with stories of survival and change


The Industry of Ideas has become the city’s hope

Planted here to take root

Where else but its oldest place? Where better

To seek cures and elders watch over rooftops?

Love is difficult and everything begins again

Community deep, ripe, alive, always new

 

Photo: Rodrigo Valenzuela

Photo: Rodrigo Valenzuela

Arne Pihl is a poet, artist and carpenter. He has been on The Smoke Farm's planning committee since 2009 and a curator for the LoFi Arts Festival in 2011 and 2013. He was resident artist for MOHAI and Olson Kundig Architects' The Poet Is In project in 2012. His work has appeared in City Arts Magazine, on King County buses and on KUOW thanks to the Jack Straw Writer's Program. His book Montana was published by Spankstra Press.