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
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.