While the Mount Si series has a wide umbrella of poems under its shadow (fucking wordplay, yes), today I’m going to zoom in on a set of three I wrote to the sound of a single song. Poikilothermal, Poikillmethermal, and Poised To Kill Me Thermally. Let’s start with the beginning!
Before we go any further, the song I have in mind is “Kill Me” by Xilent, and here’s a bit of background on what meaning it has to me. So back in August of last year, 2016, I was housesitting through a connection I had through my then-girlfriend. This place was in North Bend, owned by one of the coolest guys I’ve come to know, who also got me into photography. Thanks, Erik! This place wasn’t labyrinthine or overtly ornate or anything like that, it was just a home. But it was a good one.
Two stories tall, nice backyard space, and plenty of pretty damn cool furnishings. You see, the owner was a traveler, and also had some time on his hands. He was so deep into photography that his walls were covered in canvas prints of photos he’s taken around the world. Downright impressive, I always thought. That kind of house.
The backyard stares directly up at Mount Si. I made it a point whenever I was there to stand in the backyard and look up at it. Admire it. My girlfriend always called it her mountain, so I should call it mine too, right? It developed its own meaning to me.
So picture me, writing, PS4ing, in loungewear, and finding out that my favorite artist has just dropped this track out of nowhere on a compilation album. Probably three days into this housesitting venture, and I was struck by that lightning that one movie talked about. The first 40 seconds of “Kill Me” burned into my head one morning as I stood in that backyard and stared back at the body of Snoqualm.
The song itself begins airy, ethereal, and rises with an incredible energy in that strange Xilent way. It infected everything about the cold, because it was cold. It crept into everything about mountains, because I stood before a mountain. And every time I found myself at that house again afterwards, it was different. Every time I housesat again, I would brew tea or coffee in the morning and walk outside to see the cloud covered peak of those Cascades. However cold, however light, I loved it so much. It’s not often that I can find myself so near a natural force that takes me.
So the entirety of Poikilothermal is actually modeled off of the opening notes of Kill Me and their progression. The words themselves model the feeling I was so taken by. Icicles moving across the lungs and breathing deep with me. The “Sun smashing” in dawn and lighting up its face so wonderfully. Takingly, once again, for lack of a better word.
One of the final lines includes the word “Kjempen” which is Norwegian for “Giant”, itself the title of another poem describing an aspect of North Bend and my housesitting experience there.
And the photo up top is the mountain itself. A photo I took with my girlfriend’s family on one of my first trips to North Bend. Of course I miss the place.
This poem explores more the feeling of wanting to stay and admire the peak. “White walking” being a reference to the undead from Game of Thrones, yes. I throw a lot of references in to wanting time and space to stop to capture the moment and enjoy it forever. That’s what a lot of writing is, but there are things I write about only to capture the feelings because I know they won’t happen again. Was it the same feeling as when I climbed Mount Si? Not at all. I wasn’t content to be entranced then, I was on a mission.
In Poikillmethermal I constantly reference what it looks like rather than what it feels like in the last poem. This poem is progressively dark in imagery and tone, which sets the course for this series of Poikilothermal. Especially seen in the titles.
The climax. We’re beyond taking inspiration from the song now. It set the course, but it will not get us to the destination.
Naturally I did take the title of the song and apply it to the thoughts of wonder I was having. Poikillmethermal was written a month after Poikilothermal, and so Poised to Kill Me Thermally was written another month after that. December, January, February, respectively.
We complete our upward spiral into oblivion at the behest of being lost in the mountain. By this point I had been reading up on Everest and developing an interest in the stories of people lost on 8,000 meter mountaintops. So I took the story and I made it darker. Now in this poem we find out what the snow on the mountain is made of. “Dry blood and bone dust”… “Made from thousands/ Of other adventurers”. So I acknowledge that it is fatal to dwell on things.
At least I think that’s what I was getting at.
Still, every time I listen to Kill Me, I remember Mount Si and those North Bend memories. I do love the place. Every time it comes up on an agenda or map I get excited knowing I was there and have some really fantastic memories. I might even start watching Twin Peaks. Who knows.
So yeah! I have a lot of poems about Mount Si and North Bend, but this set was special since it tackled the crisis of not wanting to dwell but wanting to capture. In the end, I think I’m just another adventurer. Another frosted skeleton on the side of the mountain pass to warn others. But I secretly loved giving myself up to the snow.
This has been a breakdown of Poikilothermal, Poikillmethermal, and Poised to Kill Me Thermally! Thanks for tuning in, and if you liked what you’ve read, twist the dials to Radio Reality City and have a listen!