Writing the Distance: Rich Chiappone

The Covid 19 pandemic is isolating Alaskan writers. We can no longer attend workshops or public readings. The coffee bars where we met with other writers are closed. To bridge these physical gaps, 49 Writers is providing this on-line forum for Alaskans writing the distance. Professor, writer, and fly fisherman Rich Chiappone provides today’s poem and photograph.


At the landfill eagle families,
fiercely bald adults and their huge dark offspring
(faces already bleaching white),
shoulder into the heaped household waste.

A nimbus of gulls hovers above
the orange plastic cones that keep my truck
from backing too close
to the relentless crushing machines.

Unaware of the danger, or maybe unbelieving
—in spite of their vaunted corvid brains—
sleek crows crowd into the reek
of leaking white Hefty bags.

What can be done?
Birds of a feather will always flock, as the saying goes.
And what are we now
but flightless groundlings?

I heave my trash into the fevered melee
and drive to the recycling shed, hoping
I’m doing things the right way;
plastic, paper, glass, and tin, all safely separate.


Richard Chiappone teaches for the University of Alaska Anchorage and shelters in Homer with his wife and cat. The publisher of his book of essays, Liar’s Code, describes him as “a writer of stark contradictions: a man who despises winter and loves living in Alaska.” 




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