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Highway to the Coast
Mark Thalman


Thick and green, the hills rise
on each other's shoulders.

High ridges disappear in fog
make me wish I was born of water.

At the divide, I taste the cool ocean air,
the way a deer finds a salt lick,

and roller coaster down a narrow road
that does not believe in a straight line.

Blackberry vines
crawl through barbed wire fences.

Small towns occur like a whim.
As if in a coma, they merely survive.

I tune in the only station
and listen to country western.

Static gradually drowns the singer out.
Rounding a corner, he pops to the surface

for another breath,
simply to sink back still singing.

Fir shadows lace the road.
Bracken cascades embankments.

At the next curve, a farmhouse is half finished--
boards weathered raw. Chickens roost in a gutted Chevy.

Scattered among these hills, families
rely on small private lumber mills,

the disability or unemployment check,
the killing of an out of season elk.

This poem first appeared in Caffeine Destiny and later appeared in 
Deer Drink the Moon: Poems of Oregon (Ooligan Press, Portland State University).
Used here with the author's permission.




Mark Thalman, editor of and author of Catching the Limit (Fairweather Books), has been widely published for four decades. He received his MFA from the University of Oregon, and has been teaching English in the public schools for 32 years. Mark, also an artist who enjoys painting wildlife scenes with acrylics, lives in Forest Grove, OregonLearn more about him at To purchase Catching the Limit, click on the book cover and contact Mark via his email address.




Post New Comment:
Wonderful. Simple and beautiful, brimming with vivid imagery. Thanks!
Posted 05/24/2015 06:05 PM
Pat Brisson:
Such striking images! I love "the hills/rise on each other's shoulders" and "a narrow road /that does not believe in a straight line" and "small towns occur like a whim." Thanks for a lovely poem, Mark.
Posted 05/24/2015 06:57 AM
I can relate to this one, having grown up in a small town. It can be aa wonderful life. He's very descriptive. Just love it.
Posted 05/24/2015 06:17 AM
I had to read this again to understand the creeping way people proliferate in the raw country, showing more resilience than most of us have access to.
Posted 05/24/2015 03:11 AM

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