In this dismal niche, once waterfront before
the dam, transients and those who stay too
long, drink to blessed numbness or oblivion.
Cold, grey, unchanging. Rooms by the day
above the bar.
An ill-starred ship lends its name to this neon
aquarium. Strong drinks, hard winters.
There was a woman. What seems, what is.
Her lover fell through a trap door. Oh
The Desdemona—inbound from San
Francisco—ran aground. Gave up its name
one new year’s day to shoals and shifting
sands north of the channel, where ocean and
river oppose and churn.
Sixteen million Chinook once ran this river,
before the dam. Before loggers, trappers,
fishermen. Draft horses, stabled offshore in
barns on pilings, seined the river bar at ebb
tide. Belly-deep in brackish water, they
hauled out great arcing nets of glistening
A beauty ran off with an older man, a
foreigner. The river’s headlong rush.
She was in love, and he proved mad. Oh
willow, willow. They foundered in the
Annie’s Tavern Dancers down the street’s
been closed. The canneries are gone. Two
fish swim in opposite directions. The
Desdemona Club (four pool tables, well
drinks, fries) serves spirits and asylum from