Back to Issue Forty-Five

The Aroma of Tacoma



I’m only back for the day, so my dad
says get in the car, there’s something I want
you to see, drives me north, through Nalley Valley
and the once abundant stench of brewing pickle fumes,
past Tacoma Screw, the pulp mills
of my childhood spewing plumes of steam
into the sky: Cloud machines
we called them, my brother and I, blaming the thick
gray altostratus sheets on their endless belching;
where once, on a walk, our dog slipped his leash
and disappeared into the trees, until, days later
he returned home, scratched and flea-bit,
following his nose; keep going, down from Hilltop
to the Superfund site at Ruston, the town that copper built,
not a mile across, now a park and luxury apartments
stacked atop the slag heap; where the Silver Cloud
Hotel—“proudly smoke- and pet-free”—sprawling beached
on the shoreline, now offers Copper River king,
delicately plated on a bed of fennel leaf and watercress
for fifty bucks a head; refined dining,
my dad said, laughing at his own joke;
where once, each night, the hacking cough
of lungers in their bunks rang clear
across the Sound to Vashon Island and Brown’s Point,
where a young Frank Herbert watched
the smelters glow, imagining
a desert world choked and stinking
in the sand-laced fog of spice.
We park the car to walk the decontaminated beach,
the cool breeze of the marine layer tousling the reeds.
My dad shakes his head. Beautiful, right?
And it is, but I can’t smell a thing.

Weston Morrow is a poet and former print journalist. His recent poems and essays have appeared in Meridian, The Journal, Poetry Northwest, and elsewhere. His visual art has appeared in Ninth Letter. He splits his time between Illinois and Ohio and can be found on Twitter @wmorrow or at

Next (Blas Falconer) >

< Previous (Ashunda Norris)