My husband and I had gone to Washington state, to the Snoqualmie Valley, for a Twin Peaks festival in late July. We stayed on the Snoqualmie River in a humble campground in a humble town at the bottom of a not-so-humble mountain. As usual I was inspired by the nature around me; the blackberries were ripe for eating off the bush, the river was unforgiving in her temperature even in mid-summer and green with algae and minerals from the mountain’s eroded edges. I began to write in my notebook, describing the green river as a spirit, a life-giver and a woman of magnificent beauty and power. The Green River Woman was born then. I left Snoqualmie with a new character, and new poem to write, though the words never gelled into that perfect poem. Perhaps, still, it is one of those poems that will take me a lifetime to write.
I struggled, daily, with giving life or justice to the words describing the river and her magnificence. I looked to Louise Erdrich’s strong native language for clues. Instead I started writing poems about rocks in little girls’ pockets, pretending they were ancestors instead of rocks:
I am swimming with you,
A pocket full of stones,
Up the river, towards her source.
Still, I was unable to address the issue of the river herself.
Ultimatly, for help I looked to fellow novice poets on Zoetrope.com—an online poetry/fiction community designed to constructively aid other poets and writers. It was through Zoetrope I received an innocent message that created a new nebula in the universe of my poetry. Something about a green river killer… Something I had to investigate immediately.
As it turned out there was a man nicknamed The Green River Killer who, during the span of 16 years (from 1982-1998), kidnapped, raped and killed 48 young, female prostitutes. Here is where the chills began to run, relentlessly down my spine. The local people of Snoqualmie call their river The Green River. This is not surprising as the river was and is, truly, the most magnificent green. But I learned that this Green River Killer hid the bodies of these young women in the river by filling their clothes with rocks. “A pocket full of stones” must mean that girl, this “I”, is not swimming at all.
Without knowing, I had delved into a legacy of murder and mystery novels. I had tapped into some higher conscious, perhaps. That river, that Green River Woman, had she reached to me for understanding, for truth, for discovery? I’ll have to ask her when I go back in a few months. To reach deep into her ice-cold flow, to the rich green and the unforgiving soil beneath her, to feel what I felt before but this time knowing what it means.