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WA State Poet Laureate Kathleen Flenniken’s “Views of Seattle”

If you missed Mayor Ed Murray’s Inauguration on Monday, January 6, you also missed Washington State Poet Laureate Kathleen Flenniken presenting a beautiful poem titled “Views of Seattle”. But don’t fret — we want to share the poem that encompasses living in Seattle, from Macklemore to Molly Moon’s, from the Space Needle to Uwajamiya. You can watch it courtesy of The Seattle Channel, or read it (or both!) below.

Views of Seattle
For the inauguration of Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, January 6, 2014

I spied with my little eye a bridge, a tunnel, then sky
and my earliest views of Seattle,

the ferry and sound, mythic Olympics,
Smith Tower and there, the Space Needle,

making a child’s heart beat faster
and acquainting us with the terrifying vertical,

a lovely city dressed in grey, asking us to fall,
a revolving restaurant where a matchbook

set on a window sill waits for your slow return.
Bobo the Gorilla, Totem Poles and “skid road,”

bums, we called them, drinking fortified wine.
Frango-mint milkshakes at Fredrick &Nelson.

Jelly fish in the oily black waters of Elliott Bay
and the seagulls circling and dipping to catch

the Ivar’s French fries we threw.


When does a city become your own?
In a “Duck” bus? On an underground tour?

When you start that job you worked so hard
to find downtown? (Mr. Mayor?)

Finding you can’t afford to drive to work,
not with parking, and the Mercer mess,

I-5 South on a brilliant day, something called
a “sunshine slowdown” on the freeway,

which has to do with the blinding beauty
of our mountain, as slow as a slowdown for rain,

though not as slow as snow on our treacherous icy hills.
(Mr. Mayor, just don’t plow your own street first.)

From the bus through steamed-up windows
our Seattle poses for its views:

The pink light of December, 4:00 pm.
Blue-pink dome over silver-blue.

Cluster of Christmas ships, houseboat stars,
three beacons like wise men on Queen Anne Hill.

You see and are part of the scenery.


Crows at dusk, gathering low
in twos and threes, in dozens, scores,

no—thousands of crows moving toward
the darkening Arboretum, black leaves caught

in a breeze, cinders blowing up from a fire,
crows commanding our parks and trees,

calling us bad names from our power lines.


I play a prideful game each time I return
from SeaTac Airport, driving north like a tourist

or a tired, traveling sales rep—past Boeing Field,
the Rainier “R,” Cargo cranes, CenturyLink

and Safeco, then taking in the skyline, pretending
to have just arrived and glimpsing for the first time

our Emerald City. Choosing this place again as home.


Seattle sightings:

“The High-Fiving White Guys” in Seahawks jerseys,
Seafair pirates, Blue Angels and their haters, flying salmon.

In the aisles at Archy McPhee: boxing nuns
battling Nancy Pearl action figures. At the opera:

jeans. In a snowstorm: shorts, socks with sandals.
On a June day: Rain jackets, boots and tights.

In the lost and found: sunglasses and umbrellas.
In the U. Village parking lot: a jaguar sedan

pulling in next to an identical jaguar.
This isn’t Eastern Washington.

Macklemore diving off the stage.
Dave Mathews and his family at the mall.

Blue Scholars getting food at Fou Lee.
Jimi Hendrix playing guitar on Broadway in bronze.


Kevin wakes up every morning in the doorway
of my University Family YMCA. The homeless stake out

their corners, their freeway overpasses,
their benches and alleys, their respite

at Rem Koolhaas’s vertigo-inducing library. Somebody
poring over porn. Somebody checking out

a book on tape for a road trip out of his mind.
And the working, walking, compromised poor.

The walking wounded warriors. The walking misunderstood.
John Williams crossing the street with his carving knife

in a police officer’s sights, and what comes next
playing on a loop. In the jury’s chamber.

In the street. What is happening?
No vacancy at the Union Gospel Mission.


In our neighborhood, Gladys Kravitz
across the street passed away, and this year

her low-slung mid-century ranch house was leveled
and replaced by two tall elegant fishbowls,

one with perfect views into our home.
A family moved in that I did not want

to like, or know, but it was hopeless.
Their oldest son

took the bedroom directly across from ours.
Eight years old and recovering from his second

bone marrow transplant. They’ve moved
from Dallas to Seattle for the Hutch.

Front and center every night at midnight,
his parents dispense his medications.

I got to know his mother’s night gown.
I dressed in the dark. Their lives

like theater, lit up like a stage set at the Rep.
And I can watch the continuous cycle of family photos

on their computer downstairs. The one
of the baby swimming. The one with Santa.

While that sweet boy wearing his pump
plays with his brother and sister from his bed.


Wedding pictures across the city, newly framed.
An appointment to be married

by Judge—yes, this is really her name—Mary Yu.
A sudden flurry of invitations.

I spy with my little eye a line for wedding licenses.
Matching suits. Matching dresses. Molly and Sylvia’s

wedding chair dance. Someone at the Mayflower Hotel
notices Peter and Dean dressed to the nines.

“You look like you’re going to a wedding!”
“Yes!” they answer. “Ours!”


I spy through an electronic eye a girl beaten
by teenagers in the bus tunnel

while three Metro security guards look on,
move slightly away, watch her bag get stolen.


I spy a city laid out like a feast, some of it unpalatable,
some of it divine, a mountain of mashed potatoes

in the distance. In the foreground,
a tall, slender martini glass.


The couples walking their dogs, leash and coffee
and ubiquitous plastic bag.

The line around the block for ice cream
at Molly Moon’s. The line at Dick’s,

where workers get benefits. The Sonic diehards.
Sue Bird back and hitting a three. Three girls running

for their school bus. The bookstore clerks and
their blessed customers, citizens of our City-that-Reads.

The old women picking out produce
at Uwajamiya, examining each globe of fruit.

Big Bertha’s engineers, dislodging a pipe. The parades
of Sounder fans going all in. The twelfth man.

And you, Mr. Mayor, in your new office
with expansive Seattle views. Do we look different

than we did from Olympia? We’ll be watching you,
and wishing you well. Wishing you vision and godspeed.

We see your promise, your possibilities.

Kathleen Flenniken


You can read Kathleen Flenniken’s bio and her other poems on her blog.