What You Don’t Want To Do

Town of Friday Harbor Arts Commission announces poetry contest winner.

William J. Weissinger - Contributed photo

William J. Weissinger – Contributed photo

The Town of Friday Harbor is pleased to announce William J. Weissinger as the winner of the Sunken Park poetry contest sponsored by the Friday Harbor Arts Commission.

His poem “What You Don’t Want To Do” was selected from 13 poems submitted by 10 San Juan Island poets who composed works inspired by the mural “Witness the Beauty” being installed in Sunken Park this week by Kirkland artist Jake Wagoner. Poet, teacher, and former Washington State poet laureate Elizabeth Austen adjudicated the competition.

“The enthusiastic response to our request for poetry was inspiring, and the poem will add a wonderful dimension to our celebration of the Commission’s first visual art installation,” said Arts Commissioner Susan Williams. The poet will present his work at a public celebration of the mural scheduled for 2 pm Sunday, May 22nd.

Here’s his poem:

What You Don’t Want To Do.

When the camas are blooming sapphire or fawn lilies hide in white patches, you don’t want to drive down Bailer Hill to find glacier-clad Mount Baker reaching out for you,

but if you do drive down Bailer Hill, don’t turn right on Little Road and right again on Cattle Point, because that will take you to American Camp,

but if you go to American Camp, don’t smell the shoals of Nootka rose or walk the miles of beach-logged gravel where always you’ll find solitude enough to listen to the whissshhhh of waves washing against that tightness in your chest,

but if you’re gentled by the waves, still ignore across the Salish Sea the white Olympic peaks, tinged pink perhaps by the setting sun,

but if you are unlucky enough to see this mountain range in alpenglow, don’t listen in the faltering light for whale-breath.

If, spiting my best counsel, you’ve heard the whoosh of whales as the dusk tides carry our sunset west, go back from whence you came. You think I’m kidding, but I’m not. Really,

since if next morning you’re still here, you might drive to Whale Watch Park, in which case don’t walk downhill, because that will take you to more eagles, and maybe Orcas breaching, likely schools of porpoise, salmon jumping, seals, or red-beaked pink-legged black-bodied Oystercatchers, and always a lighthouse, it too warning you off.

And don’t walk uphill, because that will take you through quiet paths in private woods with ravens, pileated woodpeckers, chickadees, and Kinglets in the red-trunked madronas and the firs, and if you know what’s good for you, you won’t just stand in the parking lot, talking to visitors from Germany or China or France or to any locals either for that matter, all having forgotten their aloofness back on the mainland and so happy to chat,

but if you do go to the Park, on leaving don’t head north to English Camp, with more shore and quiet woods and what the Islanders call a mountain, which you should not climb though it’s an easy hike of only twenty-minutes, because – and now we’re to the nub – from Mount Young’s top you’ll see not only Henry Island, not merely Vancouver Island and Salt Spring, but all the way back home,

and if you can see all the way home, you’ll realize you are seeing in a circle, that home is San Juan Island now. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Posted on May 13, 2016 at 3:22 pm by

Categories: Around Here, Arts, Community, People


  1. Lovely Bill!

    Comment by Cynthia Burke on May 15, 2016 at 9:36 am
  2. Geez that’s nice work Bill….. I rarely read poetry, out of bad habits acquired in my science-job, but something like what you wrote is full of substance that I can grasp, appreciate, and want to share with family and friends.

    Comment by Dennis Willows on May 15, 2016 at 12:15 pm

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