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  • Jennifer Preston Chushcoff

Washington Poetic Routes Map

I’m excited to announce that my poem, Petrified, is included in the Washington Poetic Routes map, which was created by Claudia Castro Luna, our Washington State Poet Laureate (2018-2020).

My little red dot represents Vantage, Washington, specifically the Gingko Petrified Forest State Park/Wanapum Recreational Area

When I first visited in 2016 for my book, WA IS WATER, I was taken by the panoramic views, stunning petroglyphs and the silver blue of the Columbia River. A sense of peace settled on me as I stood on the cliff, considering the immense change in landscape. 

Millions of years ago, a lush, wet forest, full of ginkgo, sweetgum, redwood, fir, walnut, spruce, elm, maple, chestnut, cottonwood, magnolia, sassafras, yew, witch hazel and many others, was now a few scattered tree stumps, shaped into pure rock as their organic matter was replaced with minerals from groundwater. 

The woods were covered by ancient volcanic ash and preserved, buried by basalt, only to be revealed by another cataclysmic natural event, the Missoula Floods.

The original inhabitants were known as the Wanapum tribe. They carved over 300 beautiful petroglyphs into the basalt rock. A handful can be seen from the state park.

Looking through my lens to take photos, I imagined this passage of time, which is written into the landscape. It soon inspired the poem, Petrified. 

The poem can be read in its entirety below, or by clicking here, which takes you to the Washington Poetic Routes map, where you will discover many fine poets writing about this beautiful state.

PetrifiedThe mineral-rich waters are patient. Cell by cell, they transform tissue into stone, the dance of life leaves their bones white-hot, baking in the sun, under lava flows, washed in torrents and revealed tree trunks turned to pillars, a testament to what was once a forest of green living things, breathing,their autumn leaves and emerald exhalations long gone, whispers in glacier-carved valleys, in the breeze against your cheek.


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