An inch-long dragonfly. A glint of blue on gravel, a burst of jay above soft-gray-frizz. He carries the feather between his thumb and the glass of his phone.
She says, “Salmon berry.”
He points and says, “Oregon grape.”
A pause. “Salal.”
“Aren’t they the same?” He asks.
Mahonia aquifolium, she thinks, smelling the yellow stickiness of it.
“No, Oregon grape has pointed leaves.”
He looks for language they can speak, for a project, for joy. She studies the sides of the road for paths the elk might have taken. She wants to bring a chair, a picnic lunch, to walk into the woods left standing, to smell the ground where the elk rested.
Off Risk Road, white windows on a shingle wall, a porch the length of the house, two chairs ready for evening. The diesel engines of ghost trucks and men shouting.
Ruby Hansen Murray is a writer and photographer living in the lower Columbia River estuary. Her work appears or is forthcoming in As/Us, World Literature Today, Yellow Medicine Review, Apogee, The Rumpus, and American Ghost: Poets on Life after Industry. Winner of 2017 Montana Prize in Creative Nonfiction, she has been awarded residencies at Hedgebrook, Ragdale, Playa, Vermont Studio Center, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Island Institute in Sitka. A fellow of Jack Straw, Fishtrap, and VONA, Murray studied at Warren Wilson College and received an MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts. She’s a citizen of the Osage Nation with West Indian roots.
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